Matt Porter is back to guide you through the happenings at Stockport County in November 1997. Are their early season exploits starting to catch up with the surprise promotion contenders? If you need to catch up with part 7 you can do so here
Great news to start the month, Luis Cavaco has signed a new 3 and a half year contract! I shake his hand firmly and tell him he’s made the right decision, and then offer him a celebratory whisky. He declines and asks for a mineral water, I tell him it was a test and he passed, but still have a whisky myself anyway. Sod the new order, this is Stockport, I bet Andy Mutch wouldn’t turn down a whisky.
It’s a far nicer schedule this month of a mere 5 games and all on a Saturday, so hopefully I can play a more settled team. I also have the bonus of 4 of them being at home, so it could be a really vital month to consolidate. Far too many changes to list so here is the team as they start, Jim Gannon is away on international duty but the rest of the absentees are knackered, especially Alun Armstrong.
Bradford’s Brazilian Edondo Edinho is the man to watch for them, but we could really do with bouncing back.
Not a huge amount to report in the first half, a few half chances but ultimately forgettable. The crowd are still in good voice and why shouldn’t they be? Relegation favourites we do not look like, although I am determined to keep a lid on expectation and carry on playing with freedom, the Keegan way.
One of those days unfortunately, opposition goalkeeper plays well (unusually not a veteran, old keepers seem to do the business against us), and we get hit on the counter late on. Frustrating, but the crowd greet the final whistle with support for the players and that’s all I can ask for.
In the meantime Jim Gannon is helping Eire to a surprise first leg win against England, possibly aided by the bizarre inclusion of Michael Duberry in the England side.
Well surprisingly we are still top as Sheffield United failed to win, and it seems at this early stage to be potentially 2 from 3 for the top spots, although we’re not even at half way so there is no room for complacency, especially after a run of 3 defeats in 5 home games.
Next up is the huge Manchester derby, before the Arab millions this was THE big game for City away at Edgeley (well, maybe). Only long term absentee Micky Flynn and the returning but not quite fit Tom Bennett are unavailable, otherwise everyone is 100% fit so it will be our first choice team out and battling.
An absolutely belting first half in front of a packed house, but for some reason our shooting boots desert us and we find ourselves one nil down, however we nick an equaliser just before half time with our 7th shot but our first on target from Graeme Tomlinson and the crowd go mad, Edgeley has never heard such a roar. Half time team talks are difficult in an unusual way here, we are so far ahead of expectation it is difficult to be too critical, but I keep my sky high expectations of the team and have a bit of a go about their wastefulness.
The second half is an absolute non-event, I mean literally nothing happens. The fans enjoy goading the opposition, which is quite easy for a club with such lofty thoughts of themselves but who boast a midfield pairing of Michael Brown and Neil Heaney. Neil Edwards has to bail us out a couple of times in the second half and gets a deserved man of the match award, I’m pretty happy with the point if truth be told especially given our recent home form.
We drop to 2nd, but I am still happy and am confident I can pull us out of our mini slump, and the board are delighted.
I have decided to dip into the transfer market for a defender, I am leaking goals which of course is in part to my gung-ho style of play, but I can’t help but feel I am a centre back short. Flynn, Bound and James have been superb but Sean Connelly has faded and would be better suited to wing back. I’ve had a look around and settle on two targets, Michael Walsh from Scunthorpe and David Walton at Shrewsbury. It turns out Walsh is out of my price range but I fancy Walton more anyway (I know I know, they all say that), and so I go for it.
A late bloomer maybe, but I’m confident in my scouts, and so for the second time this season I break my transfer record.
Saturday has flown around once more, and once again I thank my lucky stars that I am a football manager as my missus goes off to Ikea for about the time a Tony Pulis side goes without scoring an away goal, I shudder to imagine the horror and am glad of our trip to Birmingham. Sorry love, I don’t fancy going around a furniture shop the size of Belgium with no bloody staff.
Kevin James and Jim Gannon are on international duty, James in an u21 friendly but Jim Gannon is in a massive game for Eire against England. Tony Dinning moves to right back with the fit again Tom Bennett coming into the side, and I drop my record signing David Walton straight in for Kevin James.
Well the first half was boring, nothing happened, I think it could have done with Blowers from Test Match Special talking about pigeons or buses passing by.
Well in all honesty I’ll take that, it was boring but they were far better than us and we are indebted to our superb goalkeeper Neil Edwards for keeping it at nil nil. Carlo looks glum, he will have a job claiming the jersey by the look of it.
England are so lucky, and I feel very sorry for Shay Given missing the vital penalty. Jim Gannon shows he has some nerve though, scoring a penalty that if he had missed would have sent Eire out.
Back on the domestic front we are doing pretty well it has to be said, but we are definitely wobbling at the moment. What is encouraging though is that we are taking points when we are playing terribly, a sure sign of a good side and I’m proud of the players.
Well it is a massive blow but I feel we are going a bit stale at the moment so I’m going to take the gamble. Goodbye Jim, despite your somewhat hostile moments you’re a County guy and I’m sad to lose you, but 1.9 million for an average right back who is about to turn 30 is a good bit of business, so off he goes to Stoke.
I am not hanging around to replace our Jim, with the little known Bulgarian full back signing up for only 20k, however I’m looking for another player too, fingers crossed I get him, can’t leak to the media who though yet…
A matter of hours later the main target signs up too, last seen at Roma and a seasoned international, I am hoping this is the coup we need…
Saturday rolls around and its Port Vale at home, and hopefully a good chance to get back to winning ways. I belatedly realise my mistake in signing two players with names that are tricky to spell when writing a blog, but I throw Tetradze straight in for Bennett with Dinning reverting to midfield, and Kishishev is on the bench. Elsewhere there’s a recall for Kevin James in for the declining Sean Connelly. This feels a really key game and there’s anxiety around the ground, hopefully we can get off to a good start and release that tension.
A few chances for each side in the first half and once again we are indebted to Edwards in the last couple of minutes of the half to keep it level. Just relax and play your natural game lads, don’t get tense.
Well it isn’t a classic by any means, but a win is a win. The second half is a massive improvement and the player ratings shoot up, an impressive debut from Tetradze too in front of a packed house. We aren’t really back to our best, but it is a step in the right direction and the full house are sent home happy.
It’s the halfway point of the season and we are still in the automatic promotion places, phenomenal but it will count for nothing if we fade, I’m determined that won’t happen and I see plenty of faces in the dressing room with that same steely look in their eye.
We have yet another week off and so I go cap in hand to the chairman asking whether we can go on a mini training break to the sun and escape the miserable Greater Manchester weather. Unsurprisingly he refuses, despite my protestations that Middlesbrough are doing exactly that and we are their rivals. We have to settle for a somewhat second choice of his suggestion of a cracking owl sanctuary in Norden as a teambuilding day out, truly the finest in the Rochdale area but not quite what I had in mind. Still, we all have a good laugh when a tawny owl lands on Gordon Cowans’ nose, and somewhat disappointingly Ian Gray manages to drop the bag of bird feed no less than three times, how he has the gall to complain about not being in the team amazes me.
Refreshed and bonded we have our opening day opponents once more in the shape of Wolves to finish the month. Steve Bull is still the danger man along with Simon Osborne who appears to be a star in this reality. Somewhat unusually I name an unchanged 14, Micky Flynn is just not quite fit yet but should be back to boost the defence next match.
Get your head out of the owl sanctuary boys. That was comfortably the worst half of football of the season. I rip them to shreds at half time and throw Nick Wright on for Cavaco. System stays the same for first ten minutes and we’ll see if the rollicking does the trick. I am not happy.
Well if I wasn’t happy before I’m absolutely raging now. It all starts well, first five mins we pull a goal back and they aare reduced to ten men, then shortly after we equalise. There can only be one winner can’t there? We’re all over them, but then as soon as we equalise we go to sleep for no apparent reason, Wolves score and to be frank if it wasn’t for Edwards and Walton we would be trounced. Those two can go have Sunday dinner with their families, the rest are in for extra training. My laptop is dangerously close to going out of the window, this game infuriates me sometimes.
Well the month ends with a delighted board but I am less so, we have dropped out of the automatic promotion slots, the return of the skipper from injury could not be more timely, assuming I keep hold of him as he’s still on the transfer list by request. December could be make or break….
Matt will be back next week with part 9 and he can be followed on Twitter @PorterMatt