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Leaving the past behind (FM edition)


flipsix3

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Ed hugs Sonja tight and then kisses her on top of the head, she always pretends that it infuriates her - screwing her nose up in mock grimace, which in turn makes him laugh. He loves the way she always tries to hug back just as hard, it’s just one of the many little things about her that add up to the wonder that she is. From somewhere he hears faint music growing more urgent…

…and I’d stay for ages, if I could, to wake you-oo…

He rolled over and hit the snooze button on the CD-alarm, turning back to find the bed empty. Of course it was empty, it was always empty, she’d been gone for nearly eight months now but still the dreams came – albeit less frequently these days.

He checked the clock - 7.03, and lay on his back deciding to wait until five past. He tried to bring the feeling from the dream back but, in the cold reality of wakefulness, more recent memories refused to give the happier ones a foothold.

She’s gone Ed, she went off without a word – just that stupid note - and you have to accept that, now get a move on – first day of a new job and all that

Ah yes, the new job, not exactly new but a step up all the same. How long had they…. he… been out here now? Six years? Seven? Even now he could appreciate the slower pace of life, in his final years at Spurs every day had seemed to begin with the knotting of muscles in anticipation of the day’s stresses, but as soon as he’d completed his move to the continent that had all changed.

He rolled over and looked at the clock – 7.11, best wait for quarter past then.

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Writer’s Notes:

Yes, it’s me, back from wherever I went (if the phrase Hib/Pryd means anything to you in gaming terms, then you’ll know where that was icon_wink.gif ).

Early this year I started a story using CM01/02 – my plans were fairly ambitious – and then, one morning, I got up and just had no interest in playing CM at all. The result was that I suppose I just “vanished†from the site.

Now I’ve got wind of the fact that FM2005 is out and I decided to give it a try, to help me get into it all again I’ve decided to resurrect the tale that I was working on, as a result I’ve taken what was already written and remoulded it to give me the bones of my new story. I’ve updated nearly everything – there is just one little excerpt where I’ve tampered with real life timelines to retain a little piece that I was very fond of icon_wink.gif

My apologies to those of you who will have to wade through the early stages of this odyssey with a strong sense of deja-vu. Let’s see if the new incarnation can hold my interest and prompt a return to these hallowed pages.

Flipsix3

November 2005

(the usual disclaimer applies: anything written about a real life person is purely fictional, except where it’s obviously not)

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The drive to work was as pleasant as ever, the Aquitaine region of France was a beautiful area, that’s why they’d felt so relaxed and settled here after a relatively short few months. When Bordeaux had first made a bid for him, back in the late 90’s, they’d both been somewhat reluctant to consider a move – he more than Sonja. In the end it had been her hard work that had convinced him, she’d actually travelled here to look around and had come back a changed woman. He’d been left with a choice, see out his time at White Hart Lane or relocate to the sunny climes of south-west France. Once Sonja had come back from her field trip, all smiles and giggles, the decision had seemed a lot easier.

Whilst the lifestyle change had been easy, the footballing upheaval had been less so. Having arrived at the North London club in 1990, from his home town of Huddersfield, he’d made a few appearances in their last FA Cup winning squad, playing alongside the likes of Edinburgh, Lineker, and Gascoigne. He’d missed out on the final, in favour of a few of the more established players – a fact that he couldn’t begrudge them – and from then on he’d formed a strong friendship with a number of his colleagues.

Leaving for Bordeaux had meant adapting to a whole new style of play, whilst trying to pick up the fundamentals of the French language. He laughed to himself, it was still hard for him to hold anything but the most basic of conversations in the native tongue and he was thankful that English was so widely spoken. He settled eventually, becoming an integral part of the team that made it to two consecutive French League Cup finals (losing both), and played on for several years as he drifted further and further from regular first team action.

The opportunity had come to return to England, Barnet and Leyton Orient had both made offers, but the couple had become enamoured with life on the continent and when Pau FC had offered him a role as player-coach, last year, he’d jumped at the chance.

They hadn’t needed to move from their home – a modest villa in the countryside south-east of Mont-de-Marsan, in fact it had simply meant travelling as far south as he used to travel north, and he thought that nothing could make him happier. Of course, although he was contracted as a player-coach he gradually found himself employed more as the latter, but that didn’t bother him – he studied for his UEFA certification and, on the day that he received accreditation for the final assessment, he came home with flowers and champagne… and that’s when he’d found that note.

Look, just leave it Ed, it’s not the time to start thinking about that again, just get to work and concentrate on the job

Of course he was right, he’d thrown himself into his coaching to try and numb the pain and now, with the new season approaching, he had even more on his plate to keep his mind busy.

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Cheers guys, it's good to be back. It's early days yet but I'm enjoying FM2K5 a little more than CM4 so far... icon_smile.gif

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

When Marc Lévy had announced his resignation at the end of the 2003/04 campaign many had been surprised, at 42 he was a fairly young manager and those associated with the club – Ed included – had expected him to spend time there proving himself before looking to move up. Instead he had simply walked away, it had been a number of weeks before any of his closer friends at the club discovered that he had left to spend more time with his wife who had, much to everyone’s horror, been diagnosed with bowel cancer at the tender age of 34.

Ed had always been a popular player with the fans, although he’d be lying if he claimed to have been a regular part of the squad. In his two seasons or so he’d amassed little more than two dozen starts, and a handful of appearances from the bench. It therefore came as a shock when Monsieur Le Coadou had offered him the managerial role for the new season.

“…yes Mister Allen, I’m completely sure that you’re the man for the job as you put it. The other coaches will back you, and none of them have what is needed to take the helm, it is you job if you want itâ€

He sat behind his new desk and recalled the conversation with a smile, management wasn’t something he’d considered, but then he hadn’t dismissed the idea either – it just had never come up as a topic of conversation before. It had taken him a while to make his decision, his mind still kept wandering to Sonja, but in the end he’d agreed a deal with Le Coadou and now here he was.

Thankfully there were no high expectations, he’d learned in his few months with Pau that they were unlikely to challenge for the National Division title, in fact Le Coadou and his associates were just looking to retain their league status. From what he’d seen in the games at the end of last season, that would be tough enough.

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Ed looked down the squad roster, it was going to be interesting trying to get the team playing his way – he didn’t favour the standard 4-4-2, or 5-3-2 formations that most European managers seemed to work with but he only had access to one of the attacking full-backs that his desired tactics really craved.

Jacques Leglib, at 28-years-old, would be the obvious choice in goal, a veteran of some 90 or more appearances in the years that he’d been at Pau, not counting the two or three seasons that he’d spent at other clubs during that time.. The Frenchman was well travelled, including two seasons in Portugal, and in training he looked a decent proposition.

It was interesting to Ed that Pau contained so many players from outside of France, albeit from countries with strong ties. His central defensive partnership would be part (Republic of) Congolese, in the form of Eugène Kangulungu Mbahu (fortunately known as Kangu to his team-mates), and part Senegalese – a rising star by the name of Khalifa Elhadji Ba, a strong teenage prospect whom Ed had managed to arrange a season-long loan for from Marseille. Kangu looked solid and reliable, an established player who gave the feeling that he knew how to do exactly enough, and nothing more - Ba, on the other hand, looked full of bravado and seemed to put himself about a bit more, never shying away from a strong tackle in training. Both were big men, a trait that Ed favoured, and they should control the box well.

Whilst he lacked the sort of flying right-back that he really wanted, Ed did have a player who could fill the role for now. Julien Labat, a 22-year-old local boy in his fifth season with the club, would take up station on the right. He frequently showed his pace in training but his enthusiasm needed to be toned down a little, Ed was trying to instil in the teenager the fact that he would be expected to carry the ball at his feet, rather than outrun it as he seemed prone to doing.

On the left Anicet Adjamossi – loaned from Bordeaux (the benefit of still having friends at the club) – looked to be more of a fit to the role that Ed intended and he already considered him to be one of the key players from what he saw on the practice pitch.

One of the most important elements of Ed’s chosen style would be the covering man, sitting in front of the back four Vincent Di Bartolomeo would be asked to drop back as the full-backs pushed up. When the opposition had possession though, he would push on to add extra weight to midfield. It was an unusual role, most players were accustomed to playing more defensively when out of possession and then pushing up when their team was on the attack, but in his playing days it was a tactic that Ed himself had adopted – it had not always impressed his manager… until he was on hand to make a decisive tackle or two.

The midfield trio would be anchored by the veteran Laurent Bédani, the 31-year-old Frenchman was the perfect fit for the role as far as Ed was concerned. He would bring the experience and cool head that his pivotal role required, with much of the play coming through him.

Pushing up from midfield, while Bédani played the holding role, would be Matthieu Aernoudt and Nicolas Cami. Neither was quite the attack-minded player that Ed would have chose, given carte-blanche, but he knew that he was working within limitations and they both looked like they could do a job.

The strike partnership would be a strong pairing, quite literally, with Ed opting for two big forwards who could both act as target men and hold the ball up. Stéphane Millereau was embarking on his second season at the club, although he hadn’t really performed in his first Ed had seen the signs of a good striker in the making. He would be partnered by Bertrand Tchami - a pacey forward who had spent a couple of seasons struggling in the French Second Division after a stellar season with Romorantin. Ed hoped that his return to the National Division would see him turn on that style again.

Outside the starting lineup Ed had yet to form any real opinions, Gaël Bonnel was, according to the coaching staff, a star in the making – he would push Tchami and Millereau for a spot, but other than that he would wait until a few games in before marking anyone else as a regular sub.

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Ed looked down the squad roster, it was going to be interesting trying to get the team playing his way – he didn’t favour the standard 4-4-2, or 5-3-2 formations that most European managers seemed to work with but he only had access to one of the attacking full-backs that his desired tactics really craved.

Jacques Leglib, at 28-years-old, would be the obvious choice in goal, a veteran of some 90 or more appearances in the years that he’d been at Pau, not counting the two or three seasons that he’d spent at other clubs during that time.. The Frenchman was well travelled, including two seasons in Portugal, and in training he looked a decent proposition.

It was interesting to Ed that Pau contained so many players from outside of France, albeit from countries with strong ties. His central defensive partnership would be part (Republic of) Congolese, in the form of Eugène Kangulungu Mbahu (fortunately known as Kangu to his team-mates), and part Senegalese – a rising star by the name of Khalifa Elhadji Ba, a strong teenage prospect whom Ed had managed to arrange a season-long loan for from Marseille. Kangu looked solid and reliable, an established player who gave the feeling that he knew how to do exactly enough, and nothing more - Ba, on the other hand, looked full of bravado and seemed to put himself about a bit more, never shying away from a strong tackle in training. Both were big men, a trait that Ed favoured, and they should control the box well.

Whilst he lacked the sort of flying right-back that he really wanted, Ed did have a player who could fill the role for now. Julien Labat, a 22-year-old local boy in his fifth season with the club, would take up station on the right. He frequently showed his pace in training but his enthusiasm needed to be toned down a little, Ed was trying to instil in the teenager the fact that he would be expected to carry the ball at his feet, rather than outrun it as he seemed prone to doing.

On the left Anicet Adjamossi – loaned from Bordeaux (the benefit of still having friends at the club) – looked to be more of a fit to the role that Ed intended and he already considered him to be one of the key players from what he saw on the practice pitch.

One of the most important elements of Ed’s chosen style would be the covering man, sitting in front of the back four Vincent Di Bartolomeo would be asked to drop back as the full-backs pushed up. When the opposition had possession though, he would push on to add extra weight to midfield. It was an unusual role, most players were accustomed to playing more defensively when out of possession and then pushing up when their team was on the attack, but in his playing days it was a tactic that Ed himself had adopted – it had not always impressed his manager… until he was on hand to make a decisive tackle or two.

The midfield trio would be anchored by the veteran Laurent Bédani, the 31-year-old Frenchman was the perfect fit for the role as far as Ed was concerned. He would bring the experience and cool head that his pivotal role required, with much of the play coming through him.

Pushing up from midfield, while Bédani played the holding role, would be Matthieu Aernoudt and Nicolas Cami. Neither was quite the attack-minded player that Ed would have chose, given carte-blanche, but he knew that he was working within limitations and they both looked like they could do a job.

The strike partnership would be a strong pairing, quite literally, with Ed opting for two big forwards who could both act as target men and hold the ball up. Stéphane Millereau was embarking on his second season at the club, although he hadn’t really performed in his first Ed had seen the signs of a good striker in the making. He would be partnered by Bertrand Tchami - a pacey forward who had spent a couple of seasons struggling in the French Second Division after a stellar season with Romorantin. Ed hoped that his return to the National Division would see him turn on that style again.

Outside the starting lineup Ed had yet to form any real opinions, Gaël Bonnel was, according to the coaching staff, a star in the making – he would push Tchami and Millereau for a spot, but other than that he would wait until a few games in before marking anyone else as a regular sub.

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Ed looked down the squad roster, it was going to be interesting trying to get the team playing his way – he didn’t favour the standard 4-4-2, or 5-3-2 formations that most European managers seemed to work with but he only had access to one of the attacking full-backs that his desired tactics really craved.

Jacques Leglib, at 28-years-old, would be the obvious choice in goal, a veteran of some 90 or more appearances in the years that he’d been at Pau, not counting the two or three seasons that he’d spent at other clubs during that time.. The Frenchman was well travelled, including two seasons in Portugal, and in training he looked a decent proposition.

It was interesting to Ed that Pau contained so many players from outside of France, albeit from countries with strong ties. His central defensive partnership would be part (Republic of) Congolese, in the form of Eugène Kangulungu Mbahu (fortunately known as Kangu to his team-mates), and part Senegalese – a rising star by the name of Khalifa Elhadji Ba, a strong teenage prospect whom Ed had managed to arrange a season-long loan for from Marseille. Kangu looked solid and reliable, an established player who gave the feeling that he knew how to do exactly enough, and nothing more - Ba, on the other hand, looked full of bravado and seemed to put himself about a bit more, never shying away from a strong tackle in training. Both were big men, a trait that Ed favoured, and they should control the box well.

Whilst he lacked the sort of flying right-back that he really wanted, Ed did have a player who could fill the role for now. Julien Labat, a 22-year-old local boy in his fifth season with the club, would take up station on the right. He frequently showed his pace in training but his enthusiasm needed to be toned down a little, Ed was trying to instil in the teenager the fact that he would be expected to carry the ball at his feet, rather than outrun it as he seemed prone to doing.

On the left Anicet Adjamossi – loaned from Bordeaux (the benefit of still having friends at the club) – looked to be more of a fit to the role that Ed intended and he already considered him to be one of the key players from what he saw on the practice pitch.

One of the most important elements of Ed’s chosen style would be the covering man, sitting in front of the back four Vincent Di Bartolomeo would be asked to drop back as the full-backs pushed up. When the opposition had possession though, he would push on to add extra weight to midfield. It was an unusual role, most players were accustomed to playing more defensively when out of possession and then pushing up when their team was on the attack, but in his playing days it was a tactic that Ed himself had adopted – it had not always impressed his manager… until he was on hand to make a decisive tackle or two.

The midfield trio would be anchored by the veteran Laurent Bédani, the 31-year-old Frenchman was the perfect fit for the role as far as Ed was concerned. He would bring the experience and cool head that his pivotal role required, with much of the play coming through him.

Pushing up from midfield, while Bédani played the holding role, would be Matthieu Aernoudt and Nicolas Cami. Neither was quite the attack-minded player that Ed would have chose, given carte-blanche, but he knew that he was working within limitations and they both looked like they could do a job.

The strike partnership would be a strong pairing, quite literally, with Ed opting for two big forwards who could both act as target men and hold the ball up. Stéphane Millereau was embarking on his second season at the club, although he hadn’t really performed in his first Ed had seen the signs of a good striker in the making. He would be partnered by Bertrand Tchami - a pacey forward who had spent a couple of seasons struggling in the French Second Division after a stellar season with Romorantin. Ed hoped that his return to the National Division would see him turn on that style again.

Outside the starting lineup Ed had yet to form any real opinions, Gaël Bonnel was, according to the coaching staff, a star in the making – he would push Tchami and Millereau for a spot, but other than that he would wait until a few games in before marking anyone else as a regular sub.

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Thanks muchly fellas icon_smile.gif

It was a facet of Ed’s personality, a fault in his own eyes, that he would frequently sit at home and worry about decisions made, even those made by others, going over and over the possible outcomes in his mind until he was convinced that the worst would come to pass. One such mental meandering occurred on the night before Pau’s pre-season clash.

To mark his debut campaign as manager Le Coadou had arranged a single friendly before the season kicked off, and he’d arranged for Halifax to cross the Channel to play it. Of course Ed knew that there were no expectations – it was simply a pre-season game, one in which the squad – a number of who would be playing together for the first time - could start to get a feel for the workings of Ed’s formation.

On the morning of the game though, Ed had awoken in a cold sweat, with a quiet corner of his mind assuring him that it was a make or break day, that defeat would put him on the slippery slope. Thankfully, trying to put a level headed slant on things, he had finally buried such concerns (after no small amount of battling with himself) by the end of breakfast and was actually quite looking forward to the game.

It was a gloriously sunny day, just what he had become used to in this part of the world, and both sides enjoyed the run out. Whilst Halifax took the win there were a lot of positives for Ed. Pau had created a number of good chances and, once the team started to gel, he would hope to see more of the capitalised upon – all in all there had been nothing to disappoint.

After the game, with his side looking weary but happy, Ed ran over the finer points of his notes, pointing out where work needed to be done - through the middle of defence - and where they had really shone, particularly the number of telling passes from Bédani from midfield.

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Unfortunately things had been left a little late it seemed, and Ed struggled to make any last-minute arrangements for another pre-season run out – added to an injury setback, when Tchami broke his cheek in training – he knew that the early season was going to be an uphill battle.

Driving back home that evening, with the windows rolled down and the car stereo belting out some feel-good rock, the new manager was all smiles despite his concerns over opening day – it was hard not to smile when driving through this part of the country in the late evening’s summer sun. There would be another ten days or so of training, and then he would be ready to lead his side out as they returned to action in the league.

He’d heard nothing, whilst at the ground, from his sole scout. Plans had been set in motion to add a second spotter but, as yet, without success – he called Frédéric Robin to see if he’d managed to turn up any young talent in the quieter towns of the country. Surprisingly the amiable Frenchman had come up with a dozen or so prospects and they decided to meet for dinner to chat them over, Ed showered and phoned through to his favoured local restaurant to book a table for two.

-----

“Ah good evening Monsieur Allen, it has been quite a while since we have seen you I think, will your lovely wife be joining you?â€

The question stung him for a moment, had it really been that long since he’d been here? Did they not know? He didn’t want to go into that story right now, instead he apologised that Sonja wouldn’t be dining tonight, and advised the maître d’hôtel that his associate would be arriving presently.

He was enjoying a cool glass of white wine when Robin arrived, they shook hands and ordered their appetisers and main course. Whilst they waited for their food the scout produced the list of names, immediately crossing through two or three of them, and gave Ed a brief overview of each of the remainder.

Ed was looking for a number of factors in young players, but the main thrust was for pace – he wanted to build a team that would pass and move at a rate that, if nothing else, would wear the opposition down. He was content to use what he had for the time being, with so many players already new to the squad – summer transfers that Lévy had arranged – he had no desire to replace huge numbers already, but there were one or two genuinely attractive prospects on Robin’s list.

By the time that dessert arrived the two had whittled the list down to three names, Robin would spend some time looking more closely at a young winger by the name of Jérôme Bergé, and another midfield man. Ed, meanwhile, would make the appropriate calls to offer a trial to Romain Testas, a versatile teenage forward currently plying his trade in the non-league ranks of the French game.

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Thanks very much icon14.gif

Ed quickly had to rethink on Testas once he heard that rival National League side, Bayonne, had put in a bid. A cash offer was put on the table and Ed demanded a rapid response in an attempt to force the youngster’s hand – the gamble paid off and the striker came on board in time for the season’s opener. With Tchami out injured, and Bonnel taking his spot, Ed decided to give the new arrival a place on the bench for the game at home to Raon-l’Etape.

-----

Closing the door behind him, Ed threw the keys onto the coffee table and made for the kitchen, and the cold beer in the fridge. He poured his drink slowly into a glass before walking out onto the terrace that overlooked acres of farmland behind his grounds.

As first games go he couldn’t have asked for anything more, he’d literally just settled himself on the bench, still fidgeting due to nerves, when Millereau had broken through the visiting defence to give them the most unlikely start. Ed had been, to use a favourite phrase of his father’s, well and truly gobsmacked but he’d still expected it all to come crashing down. His nerves had melted away mid-way through the half though, Millereau had doubled his tally, matching his goal count for the entire previous season in just over 20 minutes, and Pau were seemingly cruising.

Raon-l’Etape had created chances of their own, on paper the tie could have gone either way, but Ed had found himself thoroughly enjoying the game, and even a serious looking injury to Matthieu Aernoudt hadn’t dampened his spirits. The game continued to ebb and flow but it was finishing that was the key and when Cami neatly tucked away a late through-ball from Testas the difference had been clear.

Yes, all things being equal, it had been a great day, Ed leaned back and took a deep swallow of his beer. There was a niggling feeling that there was something he ought to be worried about, but in the afterglow of the game he couldn’t place it and didn’t really care…

The phone rang, making Ed jump. He swallowed the last of his beer and set the glass aside. Picking the phone up his mood quickly disappeared through the floor. He’d forgotten about Aernoudt, as his team had romped to an easy win he’d been swept along with the emotion of the occasion – but now he knew what it was that had been trying to grab his attention. The midfield man had been taken to hospital as a precaution and the verdict was in – a broken leg, and out of the squad for most of the season.

Ed hung up the phone and went looking for a second, less celebratory, beer.

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As soon as he arrived in his office the next morning he was on the phone. He was still waiting on a detailed scout report on Jérôme Bergé, but the initial assessment had been very favourable and Bergé played the same role as Aernoudt. He had cover from within, but no-one who had really impressed in training – if he could land Bergé then he’d be killing two birds with one stone, if not then he wasn’t about to panic.

Again he was under pressure, he knew that the youngster had already attracted bids, so he played the deadline card for a second time in the space of a week. Whilst the move produced a rapid, and positive, response from Bergé’s club it quickly became apparent that the youngster was not interested in joining Pau – Ed decided not to push matters, he would fill the spot from the reserves whilst looking around for options in the transfer market.

-----

Mourad N’Zif got the nod for the game at Roye. Ed decided to start with N’Zif and swap at half time, bringing in Noureddine El Yamani – a teenager rated as a very good prospect by the coaching team. After the bitter-sweet result of the opening day Ed was firmly back in his self-induced semi-panic.

It was another strong showing from his side though, they weren’t afraid to get forward and create chances although the finish seemed to be eluding them this time. N’Zif did a job, but far from a great one, El Yamani looked slightly better for around 20 minutes and then Ed’s heart sank as the youngster indicated that he needed to come off.

The necessary change was made and Anthony Gardan, a full-back by trade, was asked to take the mantle of third choice supply-line. 10 minutes later Gardan broke through the defence and fired in a low shot, the keeper parried it well but Millereau pounced to open the scoring.

A late strike from Kangu secured a first win on the road, and it was all smiles from Ed on the coach when he was told that El Yamani would only miss a few days with a slight strain. Once again he’d been fearing the worst, trying not to believe that their season was over before it had begun, and once again he’d been shown that he was blowing things way out of proportion

You’re going to have to kill off this pessimist streak if you want to survive more than a month in this job without suffering a coronary mate! he told himself as he slipped into a doze.

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Thanks, as ever, for the feedback guys - glad you're enjoying the ride

The first two games of the season had, it seemed, been a relatively easy warm up for Ed’s team – both opponents were in the bottom three without a point or a goal to their names, both were tipped as fellow relegation fodder by the French press. That was far from the case with Valence, the hotly tipped promotion favourites had swept past Pau after their 4-1 demolition of Rouen, taking the top spot in the table and Ed spent a good half-hour going over the finer points of containing the opposition as he warmed the lads up for the game.

It was easy to see why Valence were held in such high esteem, they started the game with a pace and ferocity that the Pau players – particularly the youngsters – hadn’t expected, the ball was being passed around at high speed and Ed noted, with concern, that two or three of his lads seemed overwhelmed by the step up from the previous two games. He tried to get his message across – stay calm, watch the ball and not the man, just take deep breaths and pick your moment - sure enough it seemed to do the trick. Instead of lunging in his midfield started to calculate more, biding their time and stripping the ball, playing passes into space.

To Ed’s surprise the breakthrough came from his team. Once they’d settled, and slowed the pace of the game a little, they started to take the initiative – putting the pressure on their visitors the strike partnership forced a poor backpass from Medhi Lacen, the keeper panicked and scuffed his clearance straight to Gael Bonnel who lashed home his first goal for the club. It was hardly a classic, Ed would never argue it’s case as a goal of the month, not even a goal of the week, but that would come later…… for now they were ahead.

What Bonnel’s goal lacked in style was made up by the equaliser. A poor tackle 30 yards out gave Valence a free-kick, whilst the defence tried to decide who the runner was going to be the two thousand or so fans were treated to a spectacular curling drive from Lacen – atoning for his earlier mistake in some style. Ed thought that half-time was going to be a tough-talking session but his team were determined to prove him wrong, they had their backs up now and they started to pile on the pressure and the chances. Bonnel went close again and then, finally, Millereau put one on target after a couple of early misfires.

The second half was one way traffic, Pau had the advantage, they had the home fans, and suddenly they had the momentum. Bédani saw a penalty saved, sending Ed’s confidence plummeting for a few minutes, but there still looked to be no way back for the visitors and the killer blow came when Romain Testas was given the nod to give Bonnel a rest. It would be easy to exaggerate things, to make rash comparisons – Pau were literally, and metaphorically, in a different league to the world’s best - but what Ed saw in Testas was reminiscent of what he, and the rest of the world, had witnessed in Wayne Rooney during that summer’s Euro 2004 matches.

The 19-year-old picked up the ball time after time and ran at defenders, he skipped through challenges and laid on chances that Millereau really should have buried, but in the end the youngster put the icing on the cake himself. With the final whistle looming Anicet Adjamossi spotted Testas making a run toward the 18 yard box, his pass was inch perfect and the forward – marked by two men – received it and turned in one movement, forced wide he took the ball almost to the byline before looking up and forcing a shot between the keeper and the post, a space that Ed would have sworn wasn’t there at all!

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Cheers Binny, not so sure about the Wigan comparison though, I've seen pictures of Pau and there might be a slight difference icon_wink.gif

The enthusiasm at the club had become noticeable, Ed arrived at the ground on Tuesday morning and did a quick walk around to say hello to anybody who might be around this early. Once he’d tracked down a fresh croissant he settled into his office chair and skimmed through the sports pages of the local paper – whilst his verbal French was far from good, given the time to pick over the pages of the newspaper he could generally piece together a rough idea of an article.

He was feeling pretty good about things this morning, it was probably something to do with the league table - Pau were the only side with a 100% record, three wins from three games and the best goal difference in the league. Of course it was early days yet, and a defeat tomorrow night could change things dramatically, but the simple fact that his team had started the season so well meant that he had a little slack before he needed to start worrying.

Of course it was a long coach trip to Romorantin-Lanthenay, a town siginificantly nearer to the Channel than to the shadows of the Pyrenees in which Pau sat, and an overnight stay when they got there would give his doubts plenty of time to settle in.

Before they set out Ed had a chance to see his Reserves, under the guidance of his assistant - Brahim Naïmi, rack up a 2-0 win over the Roye second-string – he made a mental note to keep an eye on the impressive Nicolas Sartolou. The 23-year-old striker had never really broken into the first team but he was definitely a prospect and could come into contention if the small-scale injury crisis worsened

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Cheers Wag icon_smile.gif

Whilst crisis might have been a strong word to use the situation did indeed worsen, Gael Bonnel scored Pau’s goal in the 1-1 draw at Romorantin, 20 minutes before he had to be withdrawn with a twisted knee. Anicet Adjamossi followed after the break, and with their hosts levelling the score Ed found himself out of subs with over 30 minutes still to play.

It was easily the most nerve-wracking game so far – Romorantin sensed the points were up for grabs and threw men forward but Leglib and the defence kept their opposition at a safe distance and battled out the draw to maintain Pau’s unbeaten record.

By now the results were almost secondary to Ed, he was losing a player a match and the squad depth was struggling. Both Bonnel and Adjamossi would be out for just a week but that was enough to mean that the weekend clash would see five senior players unavailable.

-----

If the injuries bothered the team it didn’t seem to show at the weekend, Valenciennes the Stade du Hameau and the 1800 strong crowd saw Pau back at their devastating best – Bédani opened his account for the season from the spot, and in the second half Millereau and Testas both added their own to the tally as another impressive home win was secured.

There was just one thing concerning Ed by now, with most of his pre-season nerves well and truly calmed he was puzzling over the lack of ability that he had to cover for the absent Aernoudt. He had gone through three or four different players on the left of the central midfield trio and none, it seemed, had been able to turn in a half decent performance even with Pau in truly dominant form.

The morning after the game he sat down with his coaching team to discuss the situation – it wasn’t that anyone played horrendously, but the youngsters involved all seemed to struggle to make their mark on the game*. Ed felt sure that, given time, his players would grow in ability but the momentum that Pau were building was something he wanted to maintain – with Aernoudt ruled out for most of the season he decided to turn to the transfer market and look for a ‘big name’ loan to try and complete what looked to be an otherwise strong midfield.

Despite several hours worth of phone calls between Ed, the club scout, and assorted Second Division sides, he was unable to secure anyone’s services for the season. The trips to and from Wasquehal were long drawn out affairs, from the south-west corner of the country all the way up into the northern tip on the border with Belgium. It was a long way to travel for a 0-0 draw, and an even longer journey when almost the entire time was spent in fruitless negotiations.

By the time the coach dropped him off at home, late on the Thursday afternoon, Ed had been away for nearly 48 hours and he had a headache. All he wanted was a cold beer and a hot bath. There was only one more game to go in August and his side were in rude health, in the league if not in the flesh, Valence had slipped past them again but they were firmly in the top places and making the pre-season doubters look rather silly so far. Smiling despite the headache, Ed slid down into the hot bathwater and allowed himself to doze.

-----

*Writer’s Note: I’ve read, somewhere on the FM forum, that there was a known issue with the demo with players “out of position†getting poor ratings – this may have something to do with it.

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>(from a sports editor of a national newspaper) <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Probably Jim f*cking Traynor... icon_mad.gif

Story looks nice and shiny mate. Shininess is plus bon.

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by ctreg2:

Peacemaker - I'd have a quiet word with Miles if I were you! Might stop you embarrassing yourself.

It's a cracking story though.

icon_smile.gif <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Im not embarrased.

I dont see the need for you to make a big deal of your job, as if your occupation gives you more weight to your opinion. It doesnt. And I dont need to have quiet word with anyone.

Now, let the man get on with writing :p

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by ctreg2:

Peacemaker - I'd have a quiet word with Miles if I were you! Might stop you embarrassing yourself.

It's a cracking story though.

icon_smile.gif <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Im not embarrased.

I dont see the need for you to make a big deal of your job, as if your occupation gives you more weight to your opinion. It doesnt. And I dont need to have quiet word with anyone.

Now, let the man get on with writing :p

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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by ctreg2:

Peacemaker - I'd have a quiet word with Miles if I were you! Might stop you embarrassing yourself.

It's a cracking story though.

icon_smile.gif <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Im not embarrased.

I dont see the need for you to make a big deal of your job, as if your occupation gives you more weight to your opinion. It doesnt. And I dont need to have quiet word with anyone.

Now, let the man get on with writing :p

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Bob: Yeah I've read a bit more about the 'out of position' bug since I wrote that part, players are doing OK of course but the rating they get massacres their morale so I thought I'd twist the truth to benefit the story icon_smile.gif

HD: Cheers mate

PM: Don't worry, I'm enjoyng it, was just about to order popcorn icon_wink.gif

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“Can you believe the cheek of that guy?!†Ed slammed the phone down and turned to his assistant.

“Who was it?â€

“Guy bloody David from Créteil. I’ve spent most of this week talking to him, I’ve made offers to loan three of his midfield reserves, not one of them has played more than 30 minutes football for the seniors, and not one of them would he let me talk to about loan dealsâ€

“Ah I see, that’s annoying I guessâ€

“That? Oh no I’ve already got used to that, what’s annoying… infuriating even… is that now he comes to me wanting to buy Jacquesâ€

“Jacques? Jacques Leglib?â€

“That’s right, our first choice keeper, not missed a game, conceded only twice in seven matches… that Jacques Leglib, and he offers me a defender in exchangeâ€

The conversation had really wound Ed up, did this Guy David bloke really think that they were going to hand over one of their prize assets? Ed was so consumed with disbelief that most of the game passed him by. This was probably no bad thing, Cherbourg made no secret of their intentions to flood the midfield and stifle any creativity that Pau might have shown – of course with Cami out through suspension, and Bédani dropping back to cover for the absent Di Bartolomeo – out for a few days with a bruised head earned from a training ground clash – that creativity was already somewhat diminished and the game produced a goalless draw with both sides grinding out no more than a couple of chances.

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AUGUST 2004 SUMMARY

Pau 3 (Millereau 2, 21, Cami 87)

Raon-l’Etape 0

Man of the Match: Ba (Pau)

News: Matthieu Aernoudt (Pau) broken leg (8 months)

Roye 0

Pau 2 (Millereau 76, Kangu 80)

Man of the Match: Leglib (Pau)

Pau 3 (Bonnel 9, Millereau 31, Testas 90+)

Valence 1 (Lacen 21)

Man of the Match: Cami (Pau)

News: Laurent Bédani (Pau) missed penalty (saved)

Romorantin 1 (Hadjérès 55)

Pau 1 (Bonnel 15)

Man of the Match: Kangu (Pau)

Pau 3 (Bédani pen 40, Millereau 70, Testas 82)

Valenciennes 0

Man of the Match: Cami (Pau)

Wasquehal 0

Pau 0

Man of the Match: Ba (Pau)

Pau 0

Cherbourg 0

Man of the Match: Hubert Castets (Cherbourg)

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Ed was sitting in his office enjoying a quiet moment when the phone rang, he’d been miles away – reliving the finer moments of the opening month’s performances – and the shrill tone brought him back to the present with a start. He realised, as he picked up the handset, that he must have drifted off completely.

“Hello"

……

"Sorry, who is this?"

……

"No, I’m sorry, I don’t want any…..wait a minute, don’t I know you?"

……

"Oh I think I do, and that’s a terrible French accent, how are ya Gazza? Still flabby and farting? he laughed as the former Spurs midfielder responded in suitably colourful language"

"What? Yeah it’s going really well mate, bit of a tough start to the season but I think it’s coming together now. What about you? Any plans for another comeback? You don’t fancy a player-coach role do you? I’ve got a spot open"

……

"Boston? Well I guess you can do a job there, just call me when they sack you, alright? both men laughed at this, and then went on exchanging casual gossip for a few minutes.

Anyway it’s been good to hear from you mate, and I wasn’t joking – if you end up at a loose end, you call OK?"

……

"What? Erm… no, no we’re not, we split up a few months back."

……

"I don’t know really, I mean she left a note but that was it, I haven’t spoke to her. No offence mate, but it’s really not something I want to talk about right now."

……

"Sure thing, you too Paul. Hope it goes well for you in Boston, speak to you soon OK?"

……

"Cheers mate, bye"

Well that was it then, the news wouldn’t stay quiet for long with Gazza knowing about it, not that it really bothered him – there were much more important things on his mind right now, Pau’s next two games would be against the current 3rd and 4th placed teams and he had two of his defensive first choices away on international duties.

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It was a very different looking squad that travelled to Croix de Savoie, with Kangu and Adjamossi both out of contention the central spine of the midfield dropped back, Labat had to switch flanks, and Testas was brought into midfield to make up the numbers. Now the injuries were really telling and Ed could sense big problems for the game ahead.

Sure enough the game descended into the realms of nightmare for Ed. Once their hosts had identified the weak spots they set about exploiting them and all but killed off the game shortly before half time. After the break Ed had to completely reorganise twice, first with Testas withdrawn showing the signs of a knock, then when Elhadji Ba was given a straight red card for nothing more than a 50-50 challenge. The match ended up in a 3-0 win for the home side, on top of which the ‘curse’ of left-midfield seemed to be sapping the will to play out of anyone given the position.

-----

“What’s wrong monsieur Allen?†the chairman had travelled with the team to the game and he dropped himself into the empty seat next to Ed

“Well I suppose I’ve been waiting for this day and now it’s here I can see that we’re not really the team many people think we areâ€

“What? What foolishness are you talking? We have injuries, players on international duty, we fought hard today and for once we were found wanting – do you see me worrying myself yet? Noâ€

“I suppose you’re right but…â€

“But nothing monsieur Allen, if we lose only one game in every eight for the rest of the season I will be a very happy man. I don’t want you to dwell on this result, I want you to think what we have achieved so far and be proud. Of course, lose again next Saturday and I’ll have your balls†Le Coadou winked at Ed and shuffled back along the aisle to talk with the players.

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Sitting at home Ed’s mind drifted back to the conversation with Gazza. Growing up in the streets of Huddersfield, his father had always tried to instil in Ed the importance of strong family and moral values

“Now you listen to me Edgar Allen, when you find the right woman you get married and you stand by her. It’s a big decision, and it has to be made for the right reasons, and if you do that then it will work – just look at your mother and meâ€

Whilst, as his mates had often pointed out, he had grown up in a much more liberal society than his parents, he still held true to those values and it therefore struck him as odd, almost sad, that he could talk about Sonja’s departure in such an off-hand tone. He had loved her, in fact that was a stupid suggestion – he still did love her – but she obviously had her own ideas and so she was gone, just like that. Anyway, what was he doing thinking about that again? He’d been spending most of his time – quite successfully – to put the topic out of his mind and he would do so again.

He had a big game coming up and he needed to do his homework, Nîmes were in 7th place but only a point behind Pau – a win would probably elevate Pau back into the promotion spots but defeat could see them drop almost to half way. The signs were mixed, Nîmes were unbeaten in four games but had injury and suspension woes of their own – although they had displayed an ability to score plenty of goals, their main scorer would miss the game.

On Ed’s side was the fact that Nîmes had a midweek game, a visit from 12th placed Rouens, whose manager had decided to embark on a war of words with his counterpart. It didn’t seem to help the visitors and Ed, who drove east to see the game, was treated to a daunting sight – injury hit Nîmes smashing four goals past their guests who rarely got out of their own defensive third.

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The week just kept getting worse for Pau, in Thursday training Millereau clashed with his marker in a practise match and twisted his ankle, by the time Saturday came around Ed was without six of his first-choice XI and his strike partnership was going out with a combined age of 38.

To say that he was expecting a bigger mauling than the Savoie game was an understatement, he took his place in the dugout and began to chew savagely on his nails.

-----

80 minutes, and three! penalties later the majority of Pau fans were leaving the ground with the game still in progress. From what he could understand of the French taunts being hurled their protest was not directed against their side, but against Pierre Tavelet – the referee.

Ed could sympathise, each of the penalties awarded to Nîmes had come from some friendly jostling whilst Pau were defending corners, and each had seen no serious action taken by the man in black – indeed the only bookings came for dissent, going to the understandably furious defensive line.

Rest assured Ed would be making a complaint of the strongest kind if he could get the French FA to listen to him* - without the ridiculous spot-kicks Bonnel’s goal would have earned Pau a point, as it was they left the ground on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline and with a first name on the newly penned ‘hit list’.

-----

Writer’s Note: thanks for removing that feature SI icon_mad.gif

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Can't say I've seen that one too much, usually I suffer from the keeper kicking it into midfield and three opposition players all congregating unchallenged to collect it

Ed stretched out on the leather sofa in his lounge and tore open the envelope. He knew what it would contain, his mother always used the same stationery and her letters always followed a familiar routine; a few bits of gossip, a couple of moans about his father (they were worse than Ed and his sister had been as kids), and then – usually – a cutting or two; she seemed convinced that he still kept the football scrapbook he had started when he was 10-years-old. He skimmed through the neatly handwritten updates

…your sister’s been seeing this chap Colin for a few months now, looks like it might be getting serious…

He knew that, in fact he probably knew more than his mother, Lynne never really liked revealing too much about her love life to Mum, but she would tell Ed what was going on if he asked, and they spoke quite regularly.

…your father is useless, he nearly broke my washing machine when he was painting the kitchen window frames…

The usual then, he’d probably just knocked it with a ladder or something.

…do you remember Andy Smith from your high school? I heard from his mother last week, apparently he’s not been well – they think it might be an ulcer…

The name rang vague bells, but it couldn’t have been anyone that he’d been friends with – still, it wasn’t pleasant news for Mr Smith.

Then the letter went into the usual Are you alright? Are you sure you’re looking after yourself? Have you talked to anyone about the split?. Of course mothers are like that, he knew he couldn’t stop her worrying no matter what he did, but it still wound him up a little, even at his age.

Finally there were a couple of clippings, apparently ones that his father had spotted.

Spurs old boy causing a stir

The clipping was from a long-running Spurs fanzine, although his parents still lived in Huddersfield his father had subscribed to the fanzine’s mailing list as soon Ed had signed for the club. It seemed that one of the writers had made it a habit to track down former players in a ’Where are they now?’ style, and the would-be investigative journalist had tracked Ed down to the French south-west. It was a flattering piece, and Ed allowed his ego to bask in it’s glow for a while, noting that it was dated just before the recent run of defeats.

The second cutting was equally pleasant, a 2-0 home win over Everton had seen his former club continue the unbeaten run that had taken them into a strong early-season 6th place. Ed had to admit that he’d been sceptical when Santini had been given the job – he’d hardly produced the goods from a star studded French national side, but he seemed to have taken to the Premiership well.

Reading through his mother’s letter a second time – not that he expected that he’d missed anything important – he decided that it was time for bed. It had been a long day.

With Pau almost back to full strength he’d been looking forward to a strong showing at Cannes but it had been a struggle, and Ed’s nerves were shot. The home side had launched a barrage of attacks that had kept the re-formed Pau defence alive all through the game. There had been the odd glimmer from his forward line, but the absence of Millereau was still telling. In the end he’d been happy to escape with a goalless draw, and he made a mental note to send the match stats to monsieur Tavelet – four corners conceded, and not one penalty!

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Good spot Monkfish (are you John Actor in disguise...?)

With the squad back to full strength, with the exception of Aernoudt, Ed had them playing practise matches of 7-on-7 and 8-on 8, he was trying to decide what his best strike pairing should be and he stumbled on an answer to his midfield dilemna. With Millereau and Tchami back he decided to go with their pairing, the one he’d marked as his first choice at the start of the season. With Bonnel available for the bench this released Testas and Ed realised that the youngster’s willingness to carry the ball might make him the perfect fit for the attacking midfield role that had proved so troublesome.

A 2-1 win over visiting Tours seemed to back up the manager’s thinking, Testas looked confident from the middle of the park, laying on Millereau’s opener and showing a lot of willingness to backtrack too. Combined with the fully fit defence the Pau squad looked to be back to their early season’s best and a stoppage time goal from Cami saw them back in winning ways despite the late late consolation from the visitors

-----

Jacques Leglib was, in Ed’s opinion, the living embodiment of quiet modesty – but even knowing that he was astonished to learn after the game at Racing 92 that the keeper had just played his 100th league game for the club with absolutely no celebration of the landmark at all. What made it even more amazing, in Ed’s eyes at least, was that the keeper had been ready to simply pack his kit and head home after the 2-0 win – this after saving a penalty kick in the first half.

How many keepers, he wondered, would walk away from the centenary game, having saved a penalty and kept a clean sheet, and not even mention the fact?

Of course, once Ed was given the statistic, he had no intention of letting Leglib off and the post-match debrief turned into an impromptu party to see out the month and to herald the hero of the day.

The celebrations went on for some time, there was a palpable sense of relief all through the squad – after the dip in form they seemed to be heading in the right direction again and the month would end with them not far out of the promotion pack.

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SEPTEMBER 2004 SUMMARY

Croix de Savoie 3 (Dragacevac 41, Peslier 44, Durand 80)

Pau 0

Man of the Match: Lemasson (Savoie)

News: Elhadji Ba (Pau) sent off 61

Pau 1 (Bonnel)

Nîmes 4 (Rivenet pen 19, pen 39, pen 62, Yao 30)

Man of the Match: Rivenet (Nîmes)

News: Don’t mention the penalties! icon_mad.gif

Cannes 0

Pau 0

Man of the Match: Jaureguiberry (Cannes)

Pau 2 (Millereau 13, Cami 90+)

Tours 1 (N’Diaye 90+)

Man of the Match: Coquerel (Tours)

Racing 92 0

Pau 2 (Millereau 10, 75)

Man of the Match: Millereau

News: Apataki (Racing) missed penalty (saved)

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