A Fifty Year Holiday Pt. 12

November begins with transfer sagas galore. Cornelissen was chased by a few teams, but the highest bidder was Connecticut. The deal won’t happen for a couple of months and, even then, they’ll need to be able to a) afford it and b) not have too many internationals already. I’ll be sceptical until the deal goes through.

Swansea don’t meet my valuation of Marshall, but still lots of interest at a quarter of a million.

I manage to get Swindon up to half a million for Middleton, but bids keep rolling in, so we’ll wait and see what happens there.

And incoming, we have a few November Scandinavian Bosmans lined up. For now, at least. I may change my mind on the first two. Kokko (or “Francesco” as I’d call him) is a reserve at best, while Berg is a bit on the old side at 32. Persson arrives on the 27th and I don’t think I’ll be changing my mind on him. He’s free, on a decent wage and is starting calibre for any of the front five positions.

But for now, I leave behind the wheeling and dealing and get back out on the pitch. We’re off to St James Park today. Not that St James Park. And maybe not that other St James Park you’re thinking of either. We’re off to Exeter. We’ve not beaten them in eleven previous meetings.

Beck scores his first goal for the club as we romp to another victory. That’s seven straight league wins now, with a Cup win thrown in to boot.

A quick review of league records shows that twelve consecutive wins (Torquay) is the record, so that’s perhaps within reach. But Northampton went undefeated for 35 matches, which is ALMOST as crazy as Wigan going winless for 42 matches back in 2028–29.

A familiar name pops up in the record books. After almost 50 years, his record still stands. Ludwigsen tops the league currently and has only scored nine in our seventeen matches thus far, so I don’t see anyone topping Neil this year either.

There’s lots of Middleton conversations in the following week, and after Swindon agreed to £500k, I ask every subsequent bidder for £1M. Sunderland are the winners of the sweepstakes and I’m thrilled that Middleton agreed to their contract offer, as Swindon’s £500k met the release clause and I couldn’t cancel it.

Bids for Marshall and now Jenkins arrive too. Jenkins leaving would make life a bit more difficult as we’ve had no problem upgrading elsewhere, where solid DCs are hard to come by. I make some ludicrous demands and they go away.

After a busy week fielding calls, it’s nice to get back to the pitch, especially The Rock, as we host Stoke.

Well, however many of the 3,473 fans that stayed past the 21 minute mark certainly got their money’s worth. Switching to a 2–2–3–3 and putting Rigole in for a DMC at the hour mark paid off as well. Ludwigsen with a masterclass up front, Nijhuis with a disasterclass at the back.

The Vans Trophy draw will send our old foes Harrogate our way, but frankly, that’s the least of our worries. Between potential advancement in the League and FA Cups and promotion from Div 3, the Vans Trophy is a distant fourth place on my priority list.

We pocket another cool half mil for Marshall, who really wasn’t going to get a game with the recent arrivals of Vos/Seedorf/Andersson as well as the soon-to-arrive Persson.

This is a big one. Perhaps our biggest match ever. Sure, we managed to beat not just a watered-down Liverpool side, but a homeopathic solution of Liverpool side in Round 2. But we’d been past that stage before in our history. The only comparable match would have been the 4th round FA Cup tie we played, but that was against fellow (at the time) Div 3 side Oxford. We’re away to Div 2 Reading here, with a spot in a quarter-final up for grabs. We trot out our absolute best XI for this one.

Was there ever any doubt? Yes. Yes, there certainly was. It’s a hard-fought affair, but Reading pile on the pressure in the second half and we’re lucky to hang on to the win. McCann, potentially injured and replaced at half-time, wins MotM with a goal and both assists in 45 minutes of action to send us to the League Cup QFs.

Only 16.5k to watch it, but the gate receipts (£70k), merch (£6k) and prize money (£19k) is a welcome bonus to go with the future match we’ve managed to tack on. To see who we might play, I take a look at the other 4th Round results and …. there are none. In a strange scheduling decision, the other matches are one and then two weeks from today. We’re going to have to be patient to find out who we’re playing.

A few days is all it takes, apparently. It’ll be a Prem side either way, but we won’t know which one for a bit longer.

Sunderland poach a coach of ours to become a scout for them. Sure, they’re required to pay me £55k, but no one anywhere near as good is interested. I ask a couple of rubbish ones to join, but I’m planning on upgrading immediately if we manage promotion.

We may have to be patient to discover our next League Cup opponents, but we’re not going to need to wait long for a next Cup match. The FA Cup version of our match with Tranmere is upon us before we know it. Seedorf isn’t fit to go after his exertions on Wednesday, so Lindskog slides into an AMC role. Otherwise, status quo. We’d like a repeat performance of the last match.

Performance-wise, we get an almost identical display. The shots being 18(12) and 1(0) is remarkably close to the 18(10) and 1(1) from last time. But that scoreline makes me extremely happy. The Rock was rocking.

We’re heading back to Exeter’s St James Park for Round 2 of the FA Cup. There’s no one higher than a Div 2 side at this stage, so no marquee match-ups were on the cards anyway.

When you’re bossing a league like we are, suitors are bound to turn up for your top players. Unfortunately for them, I have no interest in selling the them. We have three more players in the top 20 of this list, and I’m asking for silly money if any bids turn up. McCann, Ludwigsen, Lindskog and Jenkins have all been chased. We’ve got nine matches in a thirty-three day span (30th of November to New Year’s Day) and we’re going to need our depth.

We now know we’re at Fulham for our League Cup QF, the lower positioned of the two Prem sides we were drawn against. I’m a little bitter, as the two Div 2 sides that made it this far were paired up, meaning one of them is going to the SFs.

While never having played in a league match, we haven’t beaten Cardiff in five previous encounters (an FA Cup tie and four friendlies) and they’re the poor souls that arrive at The Rock next. We’ve earned 25 of the 27 points up for grabs at home so far this season.

It’s no fluke that we won this match and that’s AFTER Hans decides to handicap us for the vast majority of the ninety minutes by getting himself sent off. We outplayed them to the point that I was upset when we went behind. Fortunately our class shone through and we scored two very quick goals and added a late icing-on-the-cake strike at the death.

That card also means Hans will miss a three-match stretch that includes out FA Cup tie with Exeter and our first Vans Trophy match.

Persson arrives, but is injured for a couple of weeks, which is less than ideal.

We also poach this fella from Div 3 “rivals” Barnet (sitting in 20th place). He was eager to get out, and for £22k I was more than happy to offer a landing spot. The former QPR and Man U player is the first we’ve had with international experience, albeit only with Wales. His arrival will most likely end Rigole’s brief spell with the club. Griffiths is better, younger and cheaper and Rigole has a few admirers at £250k, so I’d be happy to take that ROI.

Author’s note: I don’t have anything against Wales, but riling up a certain reader of mine is thoroughly enjoyable. FOC.

A couple of days later, three Rigole bids arrive. Wrexham’s finances are insecure, Kallithea’s are OK but Leeds are rich. I accept £250k from Wrexham, ask for £500k from Kallithea and £1M from Leeds.

We’re at Grimsby next. They’re sitting in 17th and are missing their star player through injury. He’s a good young player on loan from Darlington with a famous granddad. I doubt too many people are old enough to remember him, so that’s probably why he’s dropped the “III” from after his name.

Griffiths gets straight into the XI to get some match practice and Nijhuis needs some more playing time too. Some terrible performances so far (averaging 6.33 in 3 matches) so he needs get himself ready and better in case something happens to Callebaut.

Well, I suppose not all of our matches can be goal fests. Having score nineteen goals in our last five matches, the goals dry up and our league winning streak is ended at nine.

I’m not TOO worried about dropping points with the table as it is though. Our promotion Magic Number (62, by the way) would be reachable at our current point-earning rate of 2.45/match even of Cardiff/Halifax win every match for the rest of the season. Look at undefeated Port Vale still! Div 3 is a two-horse race, for sure.

Seedorf and I win the monthly awards for November and that afternoon I ask the maintenance team to install a second trophy shelf in my office.

As we head to Craven Cottage for our League Cup QF, I realise that Griffiths is cup-tied, having appeared as a substitute for Barnet in their 1st Round loss to Margate. I shuffle Rigole onto the bench in his place and also reluctantly seat McCann, who’s not quite 100%. I’m hoping Fulham underestimate us like Liverpool did, but this is a quarter-final, so we may be past that point. I also hope Fulham fans REALLY care about the League Cup and show up in droves.

Well, Fulham have a pretty regular back four, but beyond them they’ve got no one that’s made more than six appearances so far this season. They’ve got a debutante on the pitch (so he’ll obviously score) but it looks promising!

It turns out that Fulham’s goal-scorer was a kid playing his SECOND match for them, but it comes after we’d already shot out to a 3–0 lead. Our advantage is back at three a few minutes before half time and stays that was for the entire second half. We’ve now slayed our second Premiership side of the competition.

As crazy as it sounds, Purfleet are going to the League Cup SF with a 33% of drawing Canvey Island (Div 2) there!

And many thanks to the 30k+ fans that turned up, as we also earned over £400k in gate/TV/prize money.

Add this to the coffers too. Our once-great finances are now extraordinary! We’ve got £8M sitting in the bank now. As long as my scouts keep finding cheap players that are improvements over what we’ve got, I’ll be a happy man!

Crap, we missed out on the easy one. Arsenal are 2nd in the Prem while QPR are a middling Div 1 side. They play each other next Wednesday. Canvey Island await the winner of the all-Prem QF.

Bright side, it’s a two-legged affair, so they’ll be some bums in seats for the away leg.

Enough League Cup talk. Let’s get back to the FA Cup and an away match in the 2nd round against Exeter. Some achy “legs” still after the League Cup win (and celebrations afterwards), so we move some pieces around.

Exeter takes the lead on their (of course) only shot on target, but we manage to draw level before we take the lead from the penalty mark with just over 15 minutes to go. It’s still enough time for Exeter to have an offside leveller called back, but we manage to advance. A few too many bodies lacking match practice out there.

Of course. 50% chance (probably more) we’ll get them in the League Cup SF and here we have them in the FA Cup 3rd Round. This happens BEFORE the League Cup matches too, so maybe they’ll underestimate us like Liverpool did? But then they probably won’t for the League Cup matches. This sucks, other than the number of seats there are at Highbury.

Another week, another new player arrival. This time we spend £100k on a fella who’s on par with Beck and Griffiths up front, leaving Div 3 top scorer Ludwigsen out of a spot. Not surprisingly, even at £500k, there’s a queue for him.

72 hours later, as I’m setting the line-up the our fourth different competition in a row (Div 3, League Cup, FA Cup and now Vans), I notice that neither of my usual captains (Vos or Rasmussen) are in my starting XI. I usually try to get the most influential and hardest working player as captain so when I look for a replacement, I’m confounded. Though these 2050s players have no reflexes to speak of, they’re also the most influential people in history. I don’t have anyone in single digits and 14 of the 22 first-teamers are 20s.

My average squad player has an influence rating of 18.23 and reflex rating of 2.41. That is insane. So sure, my lads will have a positive effect on you, they’ll probably just do it after it’s not necessary anymore.

All that to say that (influence 20 and work rate 9) Lindskog will lead us out of the tunnel at The Rock. We host Harrogate in this Vans clash, and they are doing well. Currently in pole position to escape the Conference (in the right direction).

I individually thank the handful of fans that are left after the below-freezing craptastic match that we win on a golden goal. Just 472 fans showed up for kick-off with many leaving at the hour mark to “beat the traffic” after going down two goals. I switch to an ultra-attacking 2–1–3–1–3 formation and get even, before realising that I could only revert to a 2–2–3–3 for extra time after exhausting our substitutions. Still, we’re through and we really did deserve it. The dozens of fans that witness the comeback are ecstatic.

We draw Southend at home in the next round of the Vans. They're a mid-table team from a division up. We’ll see them at The Rock in January.

Oh, and QPR knocked off the Gunners! We’ll face the Div 1 side in January too. It’s looking like another busy spell…

A pair of bids arrive for Ludwigsen toward the end of the week. Kozani (of Greece’s top league) offer £725k, so I’ve asked Darlington to up their £500k bid to £1M. It’s less than I was hoping for, but much more than we need for him.

We’ve got four more league matches to go til the end of 2052, and three are on the road…bit of an odd saying these days with no one taking roads anywhere. Three away matches. That’s better.

We’re off to Altrincham first. They're five points above the relegation spot and although Telford don’t look like they’re trying to stay up, realistically, Altrincham are certainly in danger.

Beck settles this match before the fifth minute. McCann adds a penalty thirty minutes later and it’s easy street from there on out. That’s fifteen undefeated in the league now.

Swindon and Walsall in for Ludwigsen too now. The same £1M request is passed along to them both.

Out of the blue, Villa approach me with a £250k bid for Jenkins. He’s been my best defender but he’s also the oldest. I ask for silly money and for some reason, they agree. £1.5M for him is insanity, so I start shopping for a replacement.

This lad isn’t a DC replacement, but he’s a remarkable young man. In on hot prospect terms of £200/week, he’ll absolutely get some time in the upcoming fixture crunch.

Just in time too, because Howarth is now the focus of intense attraction from Wycombe, West Brom and Barnsley. We’d agreed a £700k deal with Wycombe before it was gazumped by Barnsley for £1M. West Brom tried to match, but I’ve requested £1.5M from them.

Our DC replacement for Jenkins arrives before Jenkins has even left. I wasn’t thrilled with the options available, so I bring in a slightly better DC that’s also older and VERY inexpensive. This £40k signing is basically a stop-gap to tide us over until we’re up a division in the summer.

Hiner is straight in as we try to keep Jenkins healthy enough to sell. And Howarth. And Ludwigsen. The set-up for our away match at Stevenage is still a very strong one.

After 13 minutes, I’m patting myself on the back, but the rest of the match is a bit of a disaster. Stevenage actually end up with more shots on target than we do and put us under a lot of pressure. I’m relieved to hear the final whistle.

It’s a lucrative week between matches as I get an early Christmas present or three. The Ludvigsen deal won’t be completed until the new year and we’ve also got a £500k Cornelissen deal to happen that was agreed forever ago.

On Boxing Day, we’re hosting Kidderminster at The Rock. They’re “competent” according to my scout, but after looking more closely, I only see one player that is. Nijhuis getting another chance to shine today between the sticks. He’s on a 6.6 from five matches so far. Yuck.

No complaints about Nijhuis, but everything else is disastrous for the upcoming stretch of matches. Not a bad result for having ten men for over an hour though. A second yellow for a shove gets O’Rourke a 1-match ban while Schommer gets four matches for his two-footed tackle. And Griffiths is out for a couple of weeks with a leg gash.

Manchester City come in with a cheeky £500k bid for Schommer. He’s our best DM and I’m not too keen to lose him, so I ask for even sillier money than I have done in the past. I’m wary of setting values too high, but I can’t lose too many key players.

Forty-eight hours after our last match, we’re in Chesterfield, ready for our final match of 2052. Nijhuis keeps his spot after a 9 last time out and Persson is on the bench ready to make his debut.

That’s a less than ideal way to end the year. Forced into all three substitutions at half time, we play slightly out of position after the break and commit a silly foul in the box to allow them to level it from the spot.

Despite that setback, it’s been a pretty fantastic year so far. League-wise, just look at Port Vale in 2nd place. Can you imagine being the Division 3 version of Arsenal’s Invincibles and still trailing the league leaders by eleven points at only the halfway point?

Magic Number for the Title: 56
Magic Number for promotion: 46

We’ve got a League Cup SF battle with QPR to go. We’re facing Arsenal in the FA Cup 3rd round next month too. And the Vans Trophy is still a thing we’re involved in.

Purfleet are officially “Rich” according to our team “Finances & Info”. And that’s before another pair of sales will (hopefully) go through in the new year.

Hey Board. Now that we’re so secure financially, we can re-invest some of that hard-earned money back into the club, right?

The year ends with some more rather predictable news.

A very nice ending to a very successful year. January will bring all kinds of exciting challenges