A Fifty Year Holiday Pt. 11

Alright, Stevenage Borough. I’ve got nothing against you but I’m planning on putting Div 3 on notice that we ain’t here to mess about. They’ve been Div 3 since 2030 — save a one-season holiday up to Div 2 — but they do have a Premier League season under their belts.

Purfleet have quite a long and unsuccessful history with Stevenage. Five wins from twenty-four matches against them in the past but I hope our Vans Trophy win (helped out by their keeper getting red-carded in the 13th minute) last year is a sign of things to come. Very similar XI to our last couple of tune-up matches. Off. We. Go.

As with the last time we played each other, we’re aided by a penalty and a red card. That said, Stevenage weren’t really in the match and much like England back in the 2020 Euro semi-final against Denmark, we shouldn’t have had to rely on one.

We do lose Winkler due to a pulled hammy and we’ll be without his services for a month. Maybe Contreras will get back into the squad earlier than expected.

I finally get my first young player promoted from the youth squad and he’s so terrible that the less that is said about it the bett

The following day, another youth is promoted and he’s so terrible that the less that is sai

They're both released immediately.

Wigan decide to throw £220k at us and I just can’t refuse it. Because it’s the minimum fee release clause for Castano and I’m not too upset about it. Brought in for free less than a year ago, he performed well when called upon but that was always going to be less and less necessary. We’ll see him again next year in Div 2.

We’re at Kidderminster next and we have a pretty even history with them. In fact, a Purfleet win would level it at 8–9–8. Preferably a two-goal win to level up the goal difference too!

Well, it was a great performance, but no finishing. Hindered by having to make three half-time substitutions due to potential injuries (Vos/Middleton/Rasmussen), we had to shuffle the formation a bit after the break. Still, their lone shot was a crossbar, so had that dropped a bit lower…

As Castano agrees to depart for Wycombe, I reach an agreement with Inverness over Neil Hughes. £250k now, £250k after 10 international appearances. But the idiot won’t come, no matter how much I offer. Having been knocked back with a “has no intention to leave the club” form letter to a few VERY improved offers, I test his resolve by offering everything I can. I’d be doubling his salary from £675/week to £1.4k while giving him £500k up front, a £140 assist and goal bonus and a non-promotion release clause of £525k. Still nothing. I give up. What a mama’s boy. Maybe next year, Neil?

League Cup time and we’ve never faced Wycombe before. My scout says they’re very strong, and we’ve certainly got our work cut out for ourselves. Plus, a bit of rotation is required, so Rigole and McCann step in to the XI as Howarth and Ludwigsen need a break.

We’ve done it! Wycombe also field a slightly weaker side and pay the price. A close battle all match long, but we live to see another day in the League Cup.

The next round could be a little bit more difficult… Maybe a nice pay day though!

Preston comes to The Rock next. They’ve earned no points so far this season and we plan to keep it that way.

We stay undefeated, they stay pointless. We do need to work on our finishing. Or maybe their keepers reflexes were too good? He ends on a 9 despite losing 2–0 due to our 15 shots on target.

We may only get two days off before our next match, but it’s enough time to add a new player to the mix. “Hans” as I’ll obviously be referring to him as adds some more sting to our DMC group. My pocketbook is £190k lighter, but he’s a solid addition. Contreras is back down to the reserves.

That 48 hour break leaves a few players a bit too tired to join in, but we’re still looking pretty strong, especially with Hans added to the group. We’re in Sheffield to play Wednesday. They seem decent, but have only earned a point from three matches so far.

Our good run of form to start the season continues with a deserved win. We’re up to third in the table now, trailing only perfect Halifax and Port Vale, a goal better than us. The 12k+ fans at Hillborough get to see Wednesday actually move UP two places with the loss. Two teams they were level with had larger losses and dropped below them on goal difference!

The injury bug hits us hard between matches. Winkler is still gone for ten more days, but now Middleton is gone for a month (calf strain) and Seeger is out for two weeks (damaged shoulder). We’re very lucky that it’s a DMC, AMC and DC, respectively. If they were all one position, we’d be hurting far more.

Plus, we’re hosting winless Chesterfield, so that’s decent timing.

“The Ls” get it done up front, though I’d have preferred that our second tally come a little sooner than the 87th minute. Allowing Chesterfield a solitary attempt (and not even on target) makes life a lot simpler for us.

With that, we’re topping the table. There’s no talk around the office of magic numbers yet, as we’re five matches in to a forty-six match season and we’ve played against the current 12th, 18th, 19th, 21st and 22nd place teams. We need a bigger sample size before we start extrapolating.

Another month, another award for me. That’s three straight months, and a fourth straight award if you count the Manager of the Year award for last season.

My scout tells me that Macclesfield are very strong. They are the best team…out of the clubs in the bottom half of the table. And one of their strikers looks sublime despite the poor performance thus far. I throw a bid at them for him, but I’m not sure it’ll matter if we come to terms as he’s not interested in coming here at the moment.

We’re at the Moss Rose Ground (sounds ominous) for this one, trying to remain undefeated.

We don’t. But not for lack of trying. Macclesfield’s keeper rightfully taking home the Man of the Match award with the clean sheet. Despite having worse handing, agility, anticipation, jumping and positioning than our keeper, he has a 100% save percentage while Callebaut has 0%. FFS.

We drop to 4th place but immediately have a chance to regain ground as we host 1st place Halifax. We’re playing well, other than putting the ball in the back of the net, so we stay with the same XI, with uninjured Winkler taking a spot on the bench. Hopefully the friendly confines of The Rock will get us firing on all cylinders.

Much better. We play well and win. I like that combination.

Well play well enough that we draw level on points and ahead on goal difference with Halifax, dropping them out of the automatic promotion places. It’s a tight race at the moment, though it’s still well early in the season.

The usual suspects are at it in the UCL Group Stage: Ethnikos, Haarlem, Carlisle, Landskrona, Riccione. The landscape really has changed since I’ve been gone. It’s wonderful to see, especially as I hope to have Purfleet there in a few years’ time.

A bit of a shuffle is required for our next match at York. We’re down Jenkins and Seeger due to injury, so Schommer drops back to partner Rasmussen. York seem fine but their “star” defender wouldn’t get minutes in our team…perhaps the reserves.

It’s an absolute battering, marred by a late incident that’s going to hurt quite badly. While our second goal took a while to arrive, we added a third shortly afterwards. Having a three-nil lead and peppering the York keeper with 21 shots (17 on target) while allowing zero would normally be a great day at the office. But having the ref deny two stonewall penalties (clearly, he just wanted to get home to a cool shower), Lindskog decides that if he’s not blowing the whistle for those, he’ll probably permit him to land a left hook on their central defender. Nope. the final action of the match is a red card and incoming suspension. Not the smartest decision I’ve ever seen.

Still, if you’re going to get sent off, doing it in injury time is the second best time to do so. A pre or post match red doesn’t alter then number of players on the pitch, so that would be best next time, Lindskog. We have a chat to that effect, and he accepts his warning. A three match ban seems reasonable, all things considered.

Liverpool scouting done. They’re very good. A solitary player is interested in joining us and he’s a striker valued at £1.1M and wouldn’t start for us. Anyone that would is even more expensive and definitely NOT interested. Let’s hope they don’t field too many regulars. We’re almost full strength, with just Middleton still injured. I’ll also be keeping an eye on ticket sales and income for us as we visit Anfield.

It’s a reserve side we’re facing! Even our old friend Everitt is starting for them, as we only face THREE players with international experience (keeper, DC and DMC) and they’ve included a host of teenagers in their first competitive match with some out of position. This could be very good for us!

What a performance! Sure, they weren’t fielding a best XI by an stretch of the imagination, but after a phantom penalty is called early on, we battle back to draw level after switching to an ultra-offensive 2–2–3–1–2. Having made all of our substitutions, we roll with that and bang home a 107th minute winner in front of almost 32k fans! And a well-deserved win it was, too!

Add in £300k in gate receipts, £6k in TV revenue and £6k in prize money and it was a great day at the office that has financed almost a month of club operations. I’m now hoping for another big fish in the next round…as long as they drastically underestimate us too!

We’re left slightly knackered from the 120+ minutes and 72 hours of rest. Luckily, our next match is only a top of the table clash with undefeated Port Vale. Oh, crap. Well, we’ve rotated heavily and we’re going to use Lindskog at 91% because he’s suspended for the following three matches anyway.

We REALLY need to stop allowing goals from the other teams’ only shots on target. Or score more goals ourselves. Preferably both. Once again, I’m thrilled with the performance and it’s just one of those matches that if we played it 100 times, we’d win 99 of them.

We have a full week off to lick our wounds, both physical and mental, as we prepare for our next league match. It does more harm than good as Howarth injures himself in practice. We’re now short three attacking players with Lindskog suspended and Middleton still not back.

The good news from the week is the Cup draw. Whenever a Cup draw happens, I’m looking for a either a big pay day or a winnable match. And with only 32 teams left in the League Cup, we get a match that’s just about the winnable-est. Cardiff are the only team left that’s below us in the pyramid, but we get the second best option in Tranmere. They currently sit a grand total of four positions above us, winless and in 22nd place of Div 2. They also draw about three times the number of fans that we do, so there might be a few bob in it for us.

Lindskog’s ban will cover a trio of away matches and we’re off to battle mid-table Boston Utd first. Nijhuis gets some action in net after Callebaut has been letting sole shots sneak through. We’ve also got no AM replacements for this one, so I’m hoping to survive without needing to make too many changes.

Christ almighty. This is getting a little ridiculous now. In our last five league matches, we’ve allowed three goals from five shots on target, costing ourselves five points. Over that same period, we’ve scored seven goals from FIFTY-FOUR shots on target. The opposing keepers’ form is 9–7–8–9–8 with a MotM to boot.

We still sit second, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t be putting some distance between ourselves and the pack by now.

There’s some mid-week business to take care of as we sign some defensive cover from Manchester City. For £100k (over 24 months) we add Atkinson, who claims to be a DL, but will play DC for us whether he likes it or not.

We also roll through to October and some some September silverware heads Purfleet’s way. I win yet another monthly award for my work from the touchline while McCann wins for his work inside the touchlines.

Telford welcome us to town as the basement dwellers (figuratively and perhaps literally) attempt to get their season on track and knock us off for their first win of the season. History says they could, but that was all from another age: BCE (Before Canada’s Era).

Atkinson is straight in and we welcome Middleton back to the XI too.

We’re clinical from the get-go. Perhaps it’s due to the calibre of opposition, but sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered. We don’t even allow a goal, probably because their sole attempt was off target.

To finish up our “road” trip, we’re heading to The New Eyrie, which I reckon could drop the “new” bit by now. They’re sitting 15th and have drawn eight of their eleven matches so far, with a grand total of five goals having been scored. They’re looking for a defensive battle and I’m hoping our powerful offence can overcome their staunch back line.

The result we wanted, certainly, just not with the circumstances we’d hoped for. We played wonderfully well, but a red card and two injuries will not help us out moving forward.

We’re very fortunate as Schommer’s suspension is only two matches long and doesn’t begin for another three matches while the injuries are just a week and ten days, respectively.

Hans’ brother (step-brother, perhaps since their surnames are spelled differently and they have different nationalities) agrees to join us for a relatively low fee (£3k) but an exorbitant wage (£1.4k/week). He’s our highest paid player now, but is an improvement on a few of our AMs and is just as good as our top strikers too.

He’s in on Tuesday afternoon and in the squad later that day. No time like the present to get to work. We’re topping the table again after our last win, but we’re hosting 3rd place Brentford, who sit just a pair of points behind us.

We’re out of the gate quickly but things go crazy after that. In a low-scoring league/season/era that’s only seen matches with five-goals thrice in the 168 matches in Div 3 so far, a seven-goal thriller is an absolute oddity. Fortunately, we’re on the correct side of the scoreline, but Brentford were perhaps the worthiest adversaries we’ve faced in Div 3.

The matches are coming thick and fast, but it’s nice to enjoy the friendly (for us) confines of The Rock again. We’ve got mid-table Tamworth in town today.

Ludwigsen scores in the first half but despite enormous pressure, we can’t score another. Tamworth’s keeper finishes on an 8, as is de rigueur to do against us.

You know how they say that variety is the spice of life? Well, Cup draws don’t adhere to that type of nonsense. For the first round of the FA Cup, we’ll be playing Tranmere…just 17 days after we face them in the 3rd round of the League Cup. Maybe the variety is that we’re at home instead for the second pairing?

We add some more depth as we welcome Clarence’s grandson in to the fold for a tidy £180k.

He’s straight into the middle of our AMCs for an away trip to Braintree. They aren’t doing well, but Telford are just so bad I’m not sure anyone else has to worry about relegation this season.

Who is this free-scoring team and what did they do with my old team? I’m joking, of course. I don’t care in the least where my old team has gone. This team can stay forever. Seedorf with two assists and a 10 and MotM in his debut.

Battling for a play-off spot currently, Oxford United have just a solitary win from their last eight matches. This is not that game I want them to turn it around. They’ve dominated us in the past, having won almost 50% of the fixtures. But we’re not that team anymore.

That’s not the best match we’ve played lately and we won’t win any style points, but scoring more goals than the opposition is the name of the game. And you’ll never guess how many shots they had on target to score that goal…

We’re really starting to build for the future here. Our squad size is ballooning up again as we bring in a couple of youngsters (free and free)…

And another first teamer (£525k over 24 months) that is markedly better than any other strikers we currently have…

I list a few of the older/lesser used first team to make room, so Middleton, Marshall and Cornelissen are all thrown on the transfer list to varying degrees of interest.

To finish up October, we travel to Tranmere for our first of two Cup battles with a team we may well swap leagues with at the end of this year. They’re now only one position above us as we’re running away with Div 3 while they’re winless and firmly bottom of Div 2.

On we march! We’re officially further in to this competition than we’ve ever been before. And with three D2 teams left in the last 16, as well as a ten or so Prem teams, we have a good chance that the draw will give us something good!

And if we’re winning 2–0 away, while outshooting them 18(10) to 1(1), surely the home fixture against Tranmere in the FA Cup in a couple of weeks will be more of the same?

My inbox on October 31st is jammed. Bids galore for all three players, but Middleton is going to be tricky. He has a release clause of £375k, but I think we can get more than that.

I’m awarded my third straight Div 3 Manager of the Month award (and now fifth consecutive overall). It’s a lovely gift to receive on my daughter’s birthday.

The League Cup 4th Round draw sends us to the Majeski/Madjesky/Madewski/Majewski…sends us to Reading. The best of both worlds in this one. It’s a 36k+ seater, but they’re also only in Div 2. A chance for a victory AND a pay day. I like it!

Bring on November.