Euro 2000 and life in the Premier League

Last time we spoke, Euro 2000 was just around the corner. England of course had failed to qualify. The tournament was a bit of a let down in the end. No major shocks to speak of, and the best game was probably the opening match of the tournament

1st fame

That’s some Dutch team eh? Edgar Davids can only get a place on the bench. They didn’t win the whole thing though. The Dutch were the best team at World Cup 98, but lost 1-0 to Germany in the final. This time they lost to the Germans in the semis. This left us with a Germany – Spain final. Perennial underachievers against regular winners. There could only be one outcome right?

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Wrong! Germany had Jurgen Kohler sent off after 35 minutes, and immediately subsituted their captain. Spain dominated after that and their skilful players had time and space to punish the Germans.

Back in the UK, I was trying to bring a few new players into Doncaster. The Premier League is a big step up and I felt we needed two or three big name signings to add to our group of promising youngsters.

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I had signed Nene at Watford just before I left. He had smashed 25 goals and 21 assists in his season at Vicarage Road and looked like he would be good enough to lead the line for us. John Curtis is a no-brainer, if he becomes available you have to sign him.

The Dave O’Gorman deal was a strange one, I had been keeping tabs on him for a while, he’s a young Welsh forward who had been a superstar for Swansea…ogRobert Trees had been with us for about a season and for some reason his value had shot up to £4,000,000. I rejected a few bids from various teams for him, until eventually Swansea came in offering £6,000,000 for him. I added O’Gorman to the deal, so ended up taking their best player, and £1,750,000 off them!

Trees didn’t have much of a career at Swansea. This happened 3 weeks later.

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Our tiny stadium got a bit of an upgrade in time for the new season

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These were the biggest transfers of the summer..

TRANS1

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Thomas Gravesen had his pick of the European giants. Real brought him in real life too. Hopefully he will last a bit longer at the Bernabeu this time.

Some bad news for Sven. If only he had been sacked a few months earlier he could have taken the England job!

sven ancelott

Man United lost the Charity Shield again. Could this be the season that Joe Kinnear finally gets his underachieving Liverpool side to mount a title challenge?

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Over at Belle Vue, we weren’t interested in that result. Too busy training for the start of our season. The fixture list threw up a few winnable games at the start of the season for us

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Spurs and Wimbledon had struggled last year. Bradford and Barnsley had both been promoted with us last season. We had a good chance to get off to a quick start.

We came flying out of the blocks at White Hart Lane. After 10 minutes, we had already had 2 corners and 5 shots on goal

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In the end we only got one goal, but a clean sheet and away win is a brilliant start to life in the top flight. New signing Nene paying back some of his £5.5 million fee

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Jack Charlton had led Aston Villa to second place, and Champions League qualification a few months ago, but a couple of early defeats led to him being harshly sacked and the Hodg coming in as replacement

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In the meantime, over at Doncaster we had an OK couple of months. With a few shockers…

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And a few memorable wins

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12 games in and we’re sitting comfortably in mid-table

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The usual suspects at the top of the league. Joe Royle having another good season at City, and United once again leading from the front. We’re above the likes of Chelsea, Everton and Spurs, so not a bad start all things considered.

Here’s a quick look at who has been doing the business for us.

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Matty Upson has displaced our captain Jamie Allinson. I signed Marlon Broomes in pre-season from Blackburn (he always develops into a good player). He has forced his way into the team instead of Steven Haslam. After a good start, Nene has gone off the boil. His dip in form has let Cezary Kucharski back into the team

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Cezary had been a star for us in our promotion years, but I wasn’t sure if he could replicate his form in the Premier League. I was wrong.

Another player who has exceeded expectations is this lad

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He’s now worth £4,5 million and has become a key member of our team. Heidmar Gunnarson has nailed down one of the two central midfield spots, but no-one has really staked a claim to start alongside him. Bjorn Heidenstrom has led us through the divisions, but he’s getting older and the step-up to the Premier League has come too late for him. With Atsanov playing attacking midfield, that leaves one from Gareth Whalley, Jamie Day or Craig Bellamy (yep, that Craig Bellamy).

Oh and the more eagle-eyed amongst you will see a certain Frank Lebeouf at the bottom of the squad screen. I felt the squad needed a bit of experience, virtually everyone is 25 or under. Frank wasn’t wanted any more at Chelsea, so I’ve signed him up to play as a partner to Marlon Broomes for this season.

There’s been so much happening for each of my teams that I’m going to have to split this update into three parts. Especially with this just happening……

lecht

Look who’s come crawling back…..


 

Doncaster make it to the promised land…

Today I can forget about the fact that I’ve been sacked from Anderlecht and Torino. I can pretend it never happened, or, if it did, it was a freak occurrence. Surely 3 successive promotions for Doncaster proves that I still know how to play this game, right? Err yeah I’ll ignore the game I just lost in Italy to a team who are bottom of Serie B, already relegated and with only one win all season

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To be fair, look who their goalie is…

Or maybe I just know how to manage in England then…

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Three very similar seasons. I wouldn’t mind 91 points in the Premier League next year…

What else has been going on? This, for starters

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Christian Vieri at the double. Remarkably it’s Milan’s first trophy of any sort since the game started. Their cross-town neighbours and Juve have been dominating at home and abroad. They’ve been loyal to their manager though, Cappello has lasted all three seasons and is beginning to repay them

Milan are nowhere near the title race, which is going down to the wire. Juve have to be favourites, needing 3 points at home to underacheivers Lazio

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Sure enough, they left it late, but Zidane set up Thomas Helveg for the decisive goal late on.seriafinalSo Francesco Guidolin wins the league in his first year at the helm of Juventus, but their standards have slipped since Lippi left. Their lowest points total yet, and an early Champions League exit. Bologna have had a season to remember, and they still had a UEFA Cup Final to look forward to…

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Two trophies lost by the narrowest of margins. Was it a one-off or will they be back to challenge again next year?

And more importantly, will my Monza team be lining up with them in Serie A? Losing at Ternana was a set-back, but thankfully the other teams in the promotion race were just as inconsistent.

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Our final game was at home against Perugia, and just a point would be enough to see us promoted. The game clashed with an Italian under-21 match, so we were controversially missing two first-choice players (Comotto and Daino) as well as suffering from a number of injuries

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We went with in with a weakened team, I was left with no choice but to start transfer listed Mirko Cammarieri for the first time since September.

I was fearing the worst, but this was the half-time score

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Yep, Cammerieri scoring his first-ever goal for us. I always had faith in him <cough>. With Lucchese also losing, we finished in 3rd place, our highest position all season

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We finished as the level top scorers in Serie B, but check out Torino’s defence in comparison to ours. I think next year will be a struggle in Serie A. A lot of success was down to this lad we picked up on a free transfer

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All three of my teams will be in the top flight for the first team next year. Waregem finished a very average season in the middle of the table in Belgium

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Anderlecht still without a league title then. Each year that goes past makes my one season there look like less of a failure.

Remember how the last two Belgian Cup Finals have finished 7-1 and 6-1? Well guess what…

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Antwerp beat me on penalties in the semis.

Man Utd had the Premier League sewn up a long time ago, but the relegation battle went down to the final day

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Sheff Utd and Coventry are long gone, but it’s between Steve Coppell’s Palace and Bryan Robson’s Spurs. Wimbledon, managed by Gordon Milne, have collapsed since Joe Kinnear’s departure and only just avoided the drop.

Spurs squad on paper looked too good to go down, and on the big occasion, their talent finally shone through. Three of their big-name players getting on the scoresheet to secure their safety

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Decent seasons for Man City and Aston Villa. Liverpool under Joe Kinnear underachieved in the league, but took the FA Cup back to Anfield

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0-0 after 90 minutes. Maybe Forest need to work on their fitness for next season?

As for the Champions League Final, it was last year’s beaten finalists Barcelona, surely the favourites against Monaco. The French side do have some CM9798 legends like Fabien Barthez, Martin Djetou, Sylvain Legwinski and Thierry Henry, but are featuring in their first final.

Barca can afford to leave players like Rivaldo, Alfonso and Kiko on the bench and still run out 1-0 winners

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Only one substitution made in the entire 120 minutes by both teams combined. And that was in the 119th minute. Monaco may live to regret leaving Trezeguet and N’Doram on the bench for the entire game.

Back in the Premier League, Gordon Milne pays the price for a poor season at Wimbledon. Look who comes jetting back after a 10th place finish in the Jupiler League

dons roy

Kinnear and Evans have effectively swapped jobs.

Euro 2000 is on the way. Without England, thanks to Glenn Hoddle’s incompetence. So stay tuned for more!

Season 99-00 – the story so far

So, first of all, just to reassure everyone. The clock turned to the year 2000 and the world went on. No planes falling out of the sky, no alarm clocks self-animating and strangling their owners with their power cords. The year 2k bug turned out to be harmless. We’re safe for 12 years at least now, until the Mayan prophecy hits us and we’re transported to another dimension.

So…to more mundane matters, you’ll remember how this happened last season (just before they sacked me).

banned!Well, under Georges Grun, their third manager in 2 and a half seasons, Anderlecht are in Europe for the first time. I guess they’ll need some time to find their feet? Ask Yerevan..

anderlechtuefaOuch. That could have been me. <sniff>

Anderlecht don’t make it very far though

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The UEFA semis looked like this..

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Capello’s Milan up against Napoli in the final. Both of them are on the edge of the Serie A title race, which fetaures the usual suspects, as well as surprise package Bologna

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Much travelled Renzo Ulivieri has put together a strong squad who have finished 5th in successive seasons. Dario Hubner has been scoring goals since the 80’s. Neither him, Torrisi, Piangerelli and Pecchia have ever been capped, but they’re all consistently good Serie A players. Goalie Alex Brunner has had 20 man of the match awards in the last two seasons alone. They have been leading from the front for most of the season, but after this result last week –

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Juve have ominously moved into first place with just three games left. That Kluivert goal could have won another Scudetto for i bianconeri

Bologna could yet do a double though, but it’s looking unlikely

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On the other hand, Inter, who have been dominating the honours board alongside Juve, have had a few problems this season

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No trophies for them this year, but no shame in going out in the Champions League QF’s to Barcelona. The Catalans are through to another final, this time against Monaco. Juventus, the holders were drawn in the same group as Inter, and finished second. In those days, only the best two runners-up qualified, so Juve crashed out.

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Guess who got a red card at the Camp Nou?

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Anyway, how are my teams doing?

Division 1 has been really tight all season, but a mid-season run of wins has taken Donny Rovers top

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A week later, 2nd place Wolves knocked us out the FA Cup, with a 3-0 beating at Molineux. We returned the favour 7 days later in the league at Belle Vue.
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Jamie Allinson, snapped up a free last season (albeit on £20,000 a week wages) is our captain and best player. Surprinsingly no Premier League teams have been sniffing around him, yet. Steven Haslam, another youngster, has established himself at centre-back. Our regular front four have all been in great form and Bjorn Heidenstrom continues to run the midfield for us.

With 5 games left, it looks like we’ve got it in the bag.

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Wolves have faded away, and Barnsley came to Belle Vue and won recently, so they are the in-form team

It’s getting exciting in Serie B too..

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Monza really don’t have any right to get promoted. We’ve not got a great squad and a tiny budget. In fact I think getting Monza to Serie A would be a bigger achievement than 3 successive titles with Doncaster.

My old team Torino are top of the pile and look like getting promoted again. They haven’t had it all their own way though

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A sweet victory..and we missed a penalty. Knutsen maybe taking pity on his old team. We drew against Parma too. They’ve got a ridiculous team for Serie B

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Stanic, Couto, Sensini, Pfilipssen, Asprilla, Stanic etc. On the bench? Oh, just the three internationals: Benarrivo, Montella and a certain Roberto Baggio.

Waregem? Well 3 great seasons out of 3 would be too much to ask, right?

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I think that’s the definition of mid-table mediocrity. We did have a good cup run though, until the semi-final against 4th place Antwerp

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Marc Emmers is usually a bit of a star in CM9798 and he is our captain and best player. I’m cautiously optimistic about next season, as I continue to clear the dead-wood out

What about the Premier League? Some unusual pace-setters earlier in the season

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With 5 games to go, we’ve got a more familiar leader

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Joe Kinnear hasn’t had the desired impact over at Liverpool. With the players he’s got, there’s no reason that he couldn’t be challenging the top 4.

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Denilson is the highest valued player in the game (£15 million). But Joe has never managed to replace Michael Owen. No doubt Wrighty could have done a job a decade ago, but his 36 year old legs aren’t as quick as they used to be

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So, despite Joe Royle’s best efforts, the red-half of Manchester are on course for a third title in a row. But wait! Here’s a trophy that United haven’t won..

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Dennis Wise grabbing the only goal of a bit of drab game. Chelsea won’t mind though, John Toshack winning the first trophy of his tenure.

Look at what happened in the FA Cup 3rd round though!

killingThat shock defeat paves the way for a mid-table final between Dave Jones’ Forest side and good old Joe Kinnear

fa final

And finally, things have gone from bad to worse for Arry 😦

harry

Stars of CM9798 – No. 1 – Arnor Gudjohnsen

An obscure 36 year-old plying his trade at Orebro at the start of the game might seem an unusual choice for the first CM9798 star. However, we’re not going for the obvious players like (the real) Ronaldo or Paulo Maldini, this is a series about the hidden gems. With Arnor Gudjohnsen, it’s not about him, so much as his regen, who can dominate your midfield (or attack) for a decade.

WHO IS HE?

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In real life, he’s Eidur’s dad. That’s doing him a disservice though, he was one of Iceland’s all-time greatest players. At the time he played, he was the nation’s highest ever goal-scorer, and had made more appearances for his country than any-one else. Since he retired, his son has taken over as Iceland’s top scorer and a few players have overtaken him on the list of most-capped players.

Arnor spent most of his career in Belgium, including a 7-year stint at Anderlecht in the 80’s. He then moved to France and Sweden, which is where we find him at the start of the 97-98 season.

WHAT ARE HIS VITAL STATS?

gudjonson

(he had been signed by Malmo at this point in the first season..not been doing badly for them though eh?)

SO WHY’S HE SO SPECIAL?

OK he’s 36 and in the Swedish league, Even if you do manage to sign him, you’re not going to get much of out of him. But that’s not the point. He’s going to retire in a season or two. When he does hang up his boots, his regen is going to be immense. Look at those 20’s – Determination, Heading, Influence, Shooting etc.

As a DMFC, you can stick him in the anchor role and he’ll average 7 to 8 every year, and chip in with a few goals too. If you’re playing a direct style of football then he can double as a prolific striker. Play him in centre-mid as well if you like, or attacking midfield. Basically, put him on the pitch and he’ll dominate. As he gets older, he’s the perfect captain as well

HOW’S HE DOING IN THE CURRENT GAME?

Unfortunately I’ve had to wait a couple of seasons for him to retire and respawn, As soon as he did, I signed him up for Doncaster. This is his first season, with about 10 games left

heidmar

Not bad for a 19 year-old who cost 5k. I’ve been mostly playing him in attacking midfield. His value is currently £1.4 million and climbing. His combination of affordability, versatility and ability make him my number-one must buy for any team I manage. I haven’t been able to find much online love for him, has anyone else signed him up for their teams?

Pre-season shenanigans & another new club

Following on from the Kevin Keegan to Cagliari bomb-shell, there’s a lot more to update you about…

First up the end-of-season gongs are handed out. Paolo Maldini a deserving winner of the presitigious European award (still looks weird seeing him as a Juve player though). I snapped up the Division 1 and 3 top-scorers for Watford at the end of the season

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The managerial carousel is on overdrive this summer. First up, this news from Belgium

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If my experience is anything to go by, he jumped before he was pushed. I swallowed my pride and applied for the job again. I had always planned to be managing a team in each country, and Watford was only a stop-gap. However…

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Another Anderlecht legend gets offered the chance to bring the glory days back to The Constant Van Den Stock Stadium

Over the channel it’s all kicking off

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Roy’s not out of work for long though, as he makes a bold, if unexpected move abroad.

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Who’s going to replace him at Anfield though? Obviously it’ll need to be someone in the pass and move Liverpool tradition right? Or maybe a more left-field progressive choice like Gerard Houillier (who succeeded Roy in real life). Well, no, not really
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He’s done a great job at Wimbledon to be fair. As long as he manages to learn his players’ names and keeps winning games, then no-one can argue against his appointment. Wimbledon raid Sheff Weds for their new manager, as Gordon Milne takes the trip down south. Who will the Wednesday turn to?

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Obviously my promotion in Italy, and steadying the ship at Monza has been noted in the UK. They’ve got a squad that’s certainly good enough to survive in the Premier League.

sheffwedssquad

Page and Rufus usually develop into international players, and I love a bit of Alexandersson (one of only two DMFRLC’s in the game). I’m already managing two teams in England though, so I turn them down.

Who’s the second choice?

big ron

Perfect! Big Ron back at one of his many previous clubs

I finally get an offer that I am interested in, and so my short stay at Watford comes to an end..

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I needed 10 minutes to pack my bags and put a phone call in to Elton John, before I’m on the first plane out of Hertfordshire (are there any airports in Hertfordshire?) and on my way to Flanders. (Bad timing really cos I’d been putting together a tasty squad over the summer at Watford)

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I know, you can’t really say there are any household names there. Rodrigo Palomina is probably the pick of the bunch – an Aussie striker with 35 goals over the last two seasons. We’ve got £1,000,000 in the bank (this is in the days before Euros), so hopefully I can bring a few players in and build a decent side.

Watford complete the managerial cycle with their appointment. I’ve left Gerry with a top quality squad for Division 2 (and a supply of hair-care products). I’ll be keeping an eye on how he does there.

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What about the summer transfer market?

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A few big money moves. Whoever decided to shell out £9 million for Gronkjaer needs a good talking-to, mind. Alex Ferguson missed out on the speedy Dane, but he makes up for it by doing the inevitable, adding the biggest name of all to his collection of young English stars. That’s not going to make Mickey a popular boy on Merseysideowen

Joe Kinnear uses some of the money to take one of United’s reserves off their hands.

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Shame, I was hoping Rio would rot at United for another year or two, losing value, and then I could have snapped him up for one of my clubs.

The other big pre-season news….

glenda lippi

Glenn has been a total failure in the last couple of years. Failing to qualify for France ’98 and stumbling to an embarrasing defeat against Armenia in Euro ’00 qualifiers. They’ve only gone and replaced him with the greatest manager of his generation. Lippi has surprisingly opted to leave his all-conquering Juventus team to take on the challenge of revitalising a faded giant of international football. Well, he can’t do any worse than Glenn can he?

Where will Juve turn as they attempt to continue their dynasty?

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Guidolin, you’ll remember, got Parma relegated and won the UEFA cup in the season that has just finished. Maybe Juventus are looking to focus on Europe next season..

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He’ll have my first choice goalie to help him on the way. Alessandro did OK for us, but I wouldn’t have expected Italy’s two finest teams to be fighting over his signature

Is a changing of the guard on the way in England?

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Probably not if we’re honest. Blackburn won an early penalty and played 85 minutes against ten men, but still needed penalties to beat United.

The fixtures computer in Belgium through up a home game against my old team Anderlecht first up for Waregem.

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Two minutes away from holding them to a draw. The big three of Standard, Bruges and Anderlecht are miles ahead of the rest in the Jupiler League, but no reason why I can’t finish as best of the rest in 4th place. I’ll leave you with the top of the league after 3 games. jupe3

Roy Evans in wonderland, but will it last? (No, it almost certainly won’t)

98-99 round-up

Before we get to the play-off special, here’s a round-up of the other trophies won and lost as the season drew to a close. No drama in the Premier League as United triumph again. Decent seasons for Blackburn and Chelsea. Wimbledon secure another top-6 finish as well, although they were dumped out in the UEFA Cup 3rd round by Atletico.

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Guess who won the FA Cup?
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Yep no prizes for that, but guess who scored?

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Repaying the first slice on his transfer fee and ramming my words about him never playing (or scoring) back down my throat. Fair play, Emile. (Bet it won’t happen again though)

This was the state of play in Italy with one game left.

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Inter and Juve running away with it, and Inter needing a win on the final day to secure the title, thus denying Juve a potential league and Champions League double. Here are the last round of fixtures.

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Both of them had tricky, but winnable away games. Inter went 2-0 up early on in Genova through Ronaldo and Marco Simone and it looked to be all over. Samp had other plans though and scored 2 late goals to peg the nerazzurri back. That result meant a win for Juve at Vicenza would give them back-to-back scudetti.

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They hammered on the door for 90 minutes, but Zidane, Pires and co couldn’t find a way past an inspired Luca Mondini. Lippi might regret leaving Patrick Kluivert on the bench till the 64th minute.

After sacking me 5 games in, Torino finished bottom and will be back in Serie B, with my Monza team, next season.

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Juve got some measure of comfort from a regulation Coppa Italia triumph

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They then proceeded to blow Barca away in the Champions League final. The game was all over by half-time.

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After hammering PSG in the semi-final, Juve have put a marker down to the rest of Europe. Only Inter were able to get anywhere near them this season. It will be interesting to see if these two teams dominate the major trophies next year as well.

In the Cup-Winners Cup, Eirik Bakke gave Helsingborg a victory to remember

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Whilst Guidolin did indeed achieve a relegation/UEFA Cup double. A sign of Parma’s inconsistency and the strength of Serie A

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The Belgian league? Well Anderlecht finished one position and 6 points worse than they did under my management last season (hahaha). Bruges, inspired by Michael Laudrup, upset the pre-season odds and won a league and cup double. Standard were my favourites for the league but they finished 4 points adrift.jupilerfinal

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Antwerp continuing their fine tradition in the Belgian Cup. Last year they lost 7-1 to Lierse in the final, this year 6-1 to Bruges. At this rate they might win a tournament sometime in the middle of the next century.

Back to the Division 2 play-offs. We fought bravely away to Swansea but let in a late goal. Still, at 0-1 there is all to play for in the second leg back at Vicarage Road

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At half-time things looked to be falling into place. Baldry red-carded for a terrible tackle early on and midfield general Micah Hyde putting us 1-0 up on the day

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It was all set up for a second half winner, but the goal wouldn’t come. With two minutes left on the clock, Fabio Nene smashed in a second, but it was disallowed for the offside. As the whistle blew for full-time, it didn’t seem like it was going to be our day.

It was left to two of my signings to send us through. Frolyn Ledezma, a 20 year-old Costa Rican and Nicky Medlin, a £800,000 buy from Exeter, netted in extra-time to send us to the final. Ledezma was man of the match with 1 goal and 2 assists.

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Young Frolyn was going to have to do it again for us in the final because Fabio Nene pulled up with a hamstring in training the day before the final.

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He had been our talisman since taking over striker’s duties from Noel-Williams and he’s going to be missed.

Our opposition in the final was Burnley, player-manager, Chris Waddle. He has been showing a lot more ability in the managers seat than he ever has done as a pundit. They finished 3rd in the league and would go into the final as favourites

We just didn’t turn up on the day. 2-0 down after 20 minutes, Ledezma did pull a goal back to give us a glimmer of hope. That hope was extinguished 5 minutes later as Peter Handyside was sent off for a professional foul. Chris Hay, a striker valued at £4.4 million and chased by Spurs & Chelsea, hammered the nails into our coffin.

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My third trip to Wembley and my third defeat. Not a great record, but at least I am getting there regularly.

Monza could really do with a trip or two to Wembley. We are haemorraging money each week. Serie B bonus payments aren’t much help either!

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I can’t see many of these players being with the club next season. Sadotti and Campolonghi are both worth a few million, so I’ve transferred listed them in the hope of rebuilding the club with the money. Sadotti has been our captain this season, but neither have been tearing up any trees so I wouldn’t miss them too much if they do leave

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Doncaster should be able to attract some good players as a Division 1 team, we’ve still got the £2,000,000 from the sale of Munson to play with too.

Finally, Kevin Keegan’s Italian adventure didn’t even last as long as mine. Cosenza relegated to Serie C.kegan

But wait! Newly promoted Cagliari obviously saw something they liked at Cosenza. Better luck second time around maybe?

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Turmoil in Turin – the Italian job goes sour

When I thought about creating a CM9798 website I had a few ideas in mind. One was to document a mega 30-season game spread over 3 countries, another was to add something to the small (but growing) cm9798 online community. Also, I thought I would share what had worked for me – that anyone reading through this could go away and build their own all-conquering teams

Obviously getting sacked early in my second season at Anderlecht, probably didn’t help my reputation as an expert Championship Manager…but hey, losing 1 job out of 3, in exceptional circumstances, is excusable, right?

Getting sacked twice in two months? That starts to look like incompetence.

Well, guess what? It seems that the Torino board weren’t happy with our start to the season.

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I could point out that I had got us promoted. I could also point out that we had a healthy bank account, had only played 5 games and we were one win away from mid-table. Oh and I could point to us being above Lazio and level with Roma. Whichever way you try to spin it, I’m out of an Italian job. This, then, will stand as my only ever victory in Serie A (for now..)

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Not your average mid-90’s Serie A game. We were 4-1 up after 30 minutes and nearly threw it away.

At least I’ll have someone to keep me company in the Italian job centre

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That decision raised a few eyebrows on the peninsula..

This is the squad I leave behind. Lots of bodies, but ultimately not enough quality. The big names I had bought in like Iuliano and Kanu just didn’t do enough and I never managed to attract a top-level striker to the club

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I was a man in demand though, almost immediately, this happened

notts co offer

That would be, Notts County, bottom of Division 3, with no money and only half-a-squad. I politely declined

notts co team

It soon became apparent that I wasn’t going to walk into a big job. Arrigo Sacchi, manager of the greatest club side of the previous 20 years, and World Cup finalist – or me?

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Tottenham went for the left-field choice of Bryan Robson to replace Arrigo. If there’s hope for Robbo, there’s hope for me surely?

monza squad

Well yes, how about the team who finished one place above the relegation zone in Serie B last year? A team that is broke, and lost its star goalie in the summer? (I bought Abbiati for Torino in one of my last acts of manager, d’oh!)

My first game against fellow strugglers Como went well…

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(Confession time – yes, I selectively cropped that picture with the shots stats to make it seem like we were unlucky)

In the meantime, surely a first in Division 2 in England, where a manager plays a game against himself. I got the 3 points, despite young Gifton’s best efforts.

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There was more good news for Doncaster as il Tony left the club for a decent fee

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We embarked on a run in the FA Cup too, including this giant-killing in the 4th round. 3-0 up after 3 minutes, with our latest bright young thing Isiah Rankin scoring twice.

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Any thoughts I had about reaching a cup final were soon ended by a 3-0 defeat at Crystal Palace in round 5.

The managerial merry-go-round was throwing up a few surprise appointments

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We had a chance to take on John Fashanu’s Kettering in the Area Final of the Auto Windscreen Trophy (I know, I know). Unsurprisingly they went route one, with a 4-4-2, long-ball formation. The Crazy Gang tactics didn’t work though, as Fash’s lads were blown away in the first leg.

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Looks like an Orient-Doncaster final, very much in keeping with league form

div2 34 games

Watford sneaking up into the top half there too, we’ve got an outside chance of an automatic promotion and play-off spot. With all the sackings and new clubs, my Doncaster team haven’t received enough love on this page, but they are motoring towards successive promotions and their squad is worth more than a lot of Premier League teams

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Jamie Allinson, Jamie Woodsford and Nathan Munson cost a combined total of £0 and are now worth nearly £10million between them. We’ve also managed to prise a few talented youngsters like Wellens, Rankin and Duncan away from Premier league clubs. I’ve lost a few younger lads on big-club release clauses, but I’ve made sure players like Brebner and Scully can’t go the same way (to be explained in another post at some point)

It’s as you were in the Premier League. United look to be walking to the title again

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They are through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup too and only Roy Hodgson stands between them and further cup success elsewhere

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It’s the same familiar faces in Italy with a Ronaldo-inspired Inter leading the way. But, <cough> how did sacking your manager work out for you Torino? <cough>

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And yes I know, no-one cares about Belgium. You’re going to see the league table anyway though, because it seems that Torino aren’t the only ones to be underperforming after sacking me..

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Last season’s Champions League winners PSG look to be heading through to the semis this time around, along with Italy’s big two. More Euro heart-ache in store for Fergie though

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To be honest, I’ve not got much sympathy for him. United have become a graveyard for the brightest English prospects. I thought that was meant to be Chelsea’s job? Just two appearances all season for these three combined

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All is not lost for Monza either. After a few shellackings early on in my reign, we’ve got back on track and climbed the league.

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We could still make a late push for promotion, but to be honest, with that defence, I don’t think we’re ready for Ronaldo, Del Piero and co just yet…

Time to get the Hornets buzzing

So when we last spoke, my Belgian persona was idling his time away on the golf course and doing a bit of punditry work to keep busy. I was just about to begin work on a warts-and-all autobiography, exposing life behind the scenes at Anderlecht, when this happened

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I had been planning on waiting for a big job in Belgium to come up, but to be honest, there aren’t many big jobs in Belgium and I doubt Milan or Man Utd will be falling over themselves to appoint a failed Belgian manager. The Watford squad looks good on paper, even if they are underachieving in the league. Plus I get to work for Elton John..

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Gifton Noel-Williams is a CM97/98 legend who is usually sold early on in the first season, and Micah Hyde often moves on to bigger things too. This time, they are both still with us. They haven’t been performing brilliantly so far for the Hornets, but with careful handling, they are more than good enough to lead us through the divisions. We’ve also got a potential comedy strike-pairing of

and

It also means I’ve now got two teams in the same league, although they are going in different directions at the moment

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A decent win first-up against local rivals Luton, with Ronnie Rosenthal showing that he is more than just a funny YouTube clip

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I’d like to return to Belgium in future, hopefully a few years boosting my managerial reputation at Vicarage Road will put me in a position to apply for one of the big Jupiler League jobs in future…maybe a triumphant return to Anderlecht?

In the meantime, while Doncaster are running away to promotion, there’s plenty happening in Italy too…stay tuned for more!

Hustled in Brussels….Season 98/99 begins

We’re only a few games into the season, but it has been eventful, to say the least so I’m writing an update before I forget what has been going on..

As always, the summer transfer market was a busy one…

tran7 trans6 trans5 trans4 trasn3 transfers2

Paolo Maldini and Alex Del Piero swapping clubs in the space of 6 months, and Rio off to United without kicking a ball for Sunderland. Although that looks a great piece of business for Fergie, I have a feeling he might struggle to get in their team – I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if he becomes available in a year or two.

I (Anderlecht) had been keeping tags on ‘Andrily Sevchenko’ for months, and had planned on him taking over from crocked top-scorer James Obiorah. Unfortunately, the lure of the Joe Kinnear revolution obviously proved too much for me to match, and the Ukranian super-star chose to join Wimbledon. Quite a coup for them as they look to build on their top-4 finish last season

Talking of Anderlecht, we received this bombshell on the eve of the season

banned!

Now I’ve played a lot of champ in my time (can you tell?), but this is a first… I vaguely remember this happening to Anderlecht in the real world back in the day.. Here are the highlights from that game. I’ve not got much sympathy to be honest. It looks like the Forest goalie (Hans van Breukelen) is more to blame than the ref, look at the way he flaps at that first goal.

So it’s fair to say things aren’t going as planned in Belgium. To recap; a second-place finish in a league we should be winning, knocked out of the Cup by Lierse, our best player injured for the next 5 months, and a seat on UEFA’s naughty step for the season.

It was about to get worse though..After a mediocre start to the season (1 win, 2 draws). THIS….

sacked!A little harsh, but not entirely unexpected. I don’t remember ever being sacked before (honest!)..shame for me that it had to happen on the game that I am blogging, so the world can share in my ignominy, but overcoming adversity is the first step to success right?

Anyway, here’s my replacement, club legend, and ex-manager Paul Van Himst

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After appointing a total unknown, it makes sense that they would want a safe pair of hands to steady the ship. Well, I̶ ̶h̶o̶p̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶y̶’̶r̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶D̶i̶v̶i̶s̶i̶o̶n̶ ̶2̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶b̶a̶n̶k̶r̶u̶p̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶t̶i̶m̶e̶ ̶n̶e̶x̶t̶ ̶s̶e̶a̶s̶o̶n̶,̶ ̶b̶u̶n̶c̶h̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶r̶e̶f̶-̶b̶r̶i̶b̶i̶n̶g̶,̶ ̶u̶n̶d̶e̶r̶-̶a̶c̶h̶i̶e̶v̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶b̶a̶c̶k̶-̶s̶t̶a̶b̶b̶e̶r̶s̶  I wish the board, players and fans every success in the coming season.

Managing Anderlecht was a more difficult challenge than I thought. I didn’t do especially well in the transfer market – it was hard to know what kind of player to buy. The very best players aren’t going to come to Belgium, and the usual promising youngsters were either not available, or not good enough. I tried to buy Belgian as much as possible, but there just aren’t that many good Belgian players in the game (at least not within my budget). There’s no non-EU player limit in the league, which means you can look to pick up bargains from Eastern Europe and South America, but then you’re not going to get far in Europe where you can only play 3.

I also couldn’t fully recreate my world-dominating tactics from all those years ago, I think I’m getting closer though, so hopefully my next club will reap the rewards..

Lessons learnt for my next managerial attempt in Belgium (I’ll be back!), I think the way to do it is join a mid-table or Division 2 team and build a squad over a year or two. For now, I’ll pack my suitcase and wait by the phone for a manager to be sacked somewhere in Europe

Oh and here’s some actual football…

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Still, while my Belgian doppelganger is kicking his heels on the golf course, I get to have a crack at Serie A with Torino, and Doncaster will be looking to continue their rise through the divisions, so not all is lost eh?

Predictions for the season ahead?

It’ll be as you were in Italy, England and Belgium – United, Standard and Juve all look too strong. Wimbledon for a surprise UEFA cup run, Doncaster to storm to promotion from Division 2 and Torino to struggle at first but finish upper-mid-table..Join me next time to see how it pans out