A Fifty Year Holiday Pt. 15

As I’m kicking my feet up at my son’s Martian place, I largely ignore the goings on down on Earth. I occasionally catch an important headline here or there:

Silkeborg winning the Europa League;
Rushden winning the FA Trophy (for the third time in seven years);
Middlesbrough reclaiming the Premier League title having been runners-up last year and winning it the year prior;
Gaziantepspor knocking Sevilla to triumph in the UCL;
The Playoffs (at Wembley) being won by West Ham (D1), Canvey Island (D2) and Stoke (D3, joining us in earning promotion to D2 next season).

Nothing that REALLY pertains to us at all, until Iker teleports in for a chat…

“Iker, I told you I wanted some R&R. You’re capable of handling training for a couple of weeks without me.”

“Yeah, training is fine, I just wanted you to know that I orchestrated a player swap.” he says.

“Really? That’s fine. I trust your judgement. Who for who?” I ask.

“Barnsley wanted Atkinson. So I suggested a straight up, Atkinson for Paul Murphy. Like-for-like with positions too, so the depth chart won’t have issues.” Iker replies.

“Atkinson was a starting CB for us, averaging a 7.20. Murphy must have something going for him. Is he better? Younger? Cheaper?”

“Yeah, boss, he’s all three.”

“Even better! If you have any more of those type of deals, feel free to pull the trigger. Now get outta here and let me enjoy my last few days off in peace!” I fake-angrily shout with a big grin on my face.

I want to make sure I’m back for the start of June and the opening of the transfer window. We’re selling traitor Hans and now Atkinson while welcoming a few new faces to town.

Tony Hill pips me to the monthly manager’s award for a second time, only this time I suppose he kind of deserves it. We both went 1–1–0 (while drawing each other) in our final two league matches, but then Hill (and Stoke City) won the play-off semi-final and final, both on penalties. Doesn’t stop the Manager of the Year award going to the correct person, in what I can only assume was an absolute landslide of a vote.

The transfer window opens on the 3rd of June and we make some backroom moves as well as the…..frontroom ones? We add a new physio, coach and player/coach (that will never, ever, ever see the pitch as a player).

Outgoing player are Hans (departs for £650k and £17k/week in wages) and Atkinson in a swap deal, now earning £12k/week at Barnsley.

Incoming, we get:

Our prize from the Barnsley swap.
£100k plus another £100k after ten appearances from FC Kobenhavn
£35k from Manchester United having made zero appearances in six seasons
Our Hans replacement (ie improvement), in from Dundee United for £375k

I do a quick depth chart with the news additions and looking at the squad, I notice that both Seedorf and McCann are both wanted. McCann is now well down the depth chart, so I list him for a cool mil.

Bosman #1 arrives from Leicester to strengthen our DMC corp. Schommer’s loss to Liverpool still hurts, especially in light of how well off we are now.

Darlington want McCann for £1.2M over six months, and I’m happy to let him go. And Bangor want Shane McKenzie, a never-used reserve for £28k. Yup, you can go too.

We set yet another Purfleet record, but one I didn’t want this time. The bids keep coming for Seedorf and eventually he starts having his head turned. I hide all the offers from the public, but you know how things leak out. I eventually have to cave. He’s off to Derby for a £5M. I’m hoping that moving up a league and having European football will draw some players our way to fill his void.

We add a pair of supporting cast members on Bosmans, but we’ve yet to get replacements for Schommer and Seedorf, who’ve both kicked up a fuss about me not letting them leave over the past six months.

Our fans vote for Marc Vos to be our PotY. Not a bad choice, as I think it was between him and Seedorf…who’s just been sold. Beck probably would have won it had he played more matches.

The Board pay out half of the Seedorf fee to our shareholders. But then we get a bit more back through TV rights the very next day. I’d probably have tried to buy the club back with the money we’ve made over the past two seasons.

We’re officially a Second Division side now, and along with giving me their expectations (only asking for a respectable league position seems a bit cowardly) they’ve also committed to expanding the club’s training facilities…at long last. No dice on the stadium expansion though. Granted, we’re not filling the place (and never have been more than 75% filled), but surely that’ll change this season.

Our schedule is finalised and we open up our Second Division season at West Bromwich Albion. Our previous trip to The Hawthorns was when we knocked them out of the FA Cup 5th round last season. And the last time we faced them was at Wembley a couple of months ago in the Vans Trophy Final. They’re not going to be happy to see us.

Our Cup triumph from last season (I’m not sure which one…we won so many) has earned us an automatic entry in to the Europa League. We won’t be told our opponents for another month yet. Look at Shakhtar-2 qualifying over Shakhtar!

Arsenal, Valencia and Purfleet. Birds of a feather.

We complete out first transfer of the new season and I’m thrilled. Notts County made a free transfer bid for Sascha Rahn, who hasn’t played a match for a couple of seasons. He’d been loaned out last year but at this stage, we just wanted to be rid of him. However, Notts had a rather unhappy AMC that was looking for a change of scenery, so I suggested a swap.

Out and In. Quite a trade up.

As July rolls around, our start-of-season schedule is altered. We no longer play W.B.A. to open up the season as it got bumped…by the Charity Shield. It’s a chance for some more silverware, but it’s basically a glorified friendly. We’ll play Premier League champions Middlesbrough at Wembley — our fourth match there in just over four months.

Lots of scouting and training going on, but not a whole lot of player movement this summer. Lindskog — a faithful servant of almost two years averaging a solid 7.25— departs. He had some interest at 1M last season, so I list him and 500k and Chippenham (a First Division side) jump all over him.

Lee Peacock, a semi-decent youth striker is off to Greek side Veroia for 14k, but with a 25% sell-on. And he’s 19yo and currently valued at 275k. We may pocket some extra money from that sale eventually.

Another kid is promoted from the youth academy but he’s gone faster than a toupee in a hurricane. Maybe we’ll get something of use next year, once those facilities are improved.

My Copa America scout actually find some players, but none that are good enough to play for us AND would qualify for a work permit. Shame. We’re only Div 2 still with a max salary of 2.3k/week, so I’m not drawing any international superstars yet.

But we ARE drawing some Second Division-calibre superstars. My other scouts have been doing a better job and — though we’re outbid for an AMC we’ve previously chased from Inverness — we do ink a brilliant player. Brian Dickson arrives from Aston Villa (500k plus another 500k after 10 internationals) and I’m ecstatic. Pufleet Player of the Year Vos has been well and truly usurped.

With Gallagher on the left, Steadman holding the fort in the middle and Dickson on the right of my AMC trio, we’re looking pretty solid.

We get to test out the new layout almost immediately in a friendly against Stockport. Steadman, an MC no longer has the forward arrow, as Gallagher and Dickson dashing forward should be plenty of oomph. Clark and Roberts are new DMCs while Murphy and Smart are our new back line. Lots of chance for rotation in today’s match with the nine-strong subs bench.

This is what friendlies are for, right? Having made all nine substitutions at the break, Nijhuis’ red left us keeperless for the last forty-or-so minutes. We clawed the lead back to one on two separate occasions but couldn’t find the leveller. Not a bad performance overall, I thought. We’ve got a second friendly against Glasgow Rangers in a week. That will be a much stiffer test.

Steadman is out for a month, so Potter takes a break from Quidditch practice and steps in to start as an actual AMC, forward arrow and all. We’re also a bit healthier, rounding into fitness after our summer break.

Another great performance, but only a marginally better result. Still, if we’re competing with a regular UCL/Europa side while in the English Second Division, that bodes well for the upcoming season.

We’re in to August already and with nine days to go until our Charity Shield match, I’m still trying to make moves. Persson agrees to a 250k deal to move to Southend but my loan and transfer offers are dismissed left and right. I like our squad depth — we’re five or six deep at DC/DMC/AMC/ST — but our only significant upgrades this season were Dickson at right AMC and Clark and central DMC.

No sooner has the Persson money been deposited than I spend almost all of it on a second DMC upgrade. Liverpool were more than generous when they threw 3M at us for Schommer. They continue that trend by allowing us to buy a comparatively superior DMC for just 190k. I’m still tempting fate by leaving non-promotion release clauses in many of these deals (Dickson, Potter and this one) but I’m not-so-quietly confident.

The Charity Shield marks the unofficial start of the season in England…or is it the unofficial end of the summer break??? Either way, we’re off. Middlesbrough are obviously massive favourites for this one, but so were Chelsea in last years’ FA Cup Final. Who knows what can happen on any given day?

They dominate the first half but despite all their pressure, there’s no reward. Things aren’t looking too bad, squad-wise. Fitness is good and Callebaut is on a 9 so far. We replace Potter with Knudsen in the centre of our AMC triumvirate and head on out for the second half.

Different half, same result. Middlesbrough have the better of almost everything yet can’t find the breakthrough they want (and deserve). No extra-time in the Charity Shield and the 50k+ fans are treated instead to penalties.

It was completely unwarranted, but Purfleet have now added the Charity Shield to the ever-expanding trophy cabinet!

Callebaut is the shootout hero with a pair of penalty stops, although DMC Ian Clark wins MotM for thwarting so many Boro attacks throughout the match.

This is absolutely crazy. We’ve still got our perfect Wembley Cup Final record, now four-for-four while we’re five-for-five if you add in the Stamford Bridge FA Trophy Final from 18 months ago!

Bring on the Second Division!