Here’s Matt Wills with his Nottingham Forest save. He’s been parachuted in 8 seasons down the line and it’s a strange and confusing world. Matt’s found his feet though. Catch up with part 2 here.
Welcome back to my Nottingham Forest odyssey, it’s 2006 and the world is not as we know/knew it.
My reassembled regen squad have climbed up the table and are about to embark on our FA Cup run.
To carry on our good form, I feel we need to cut some chaff from the squad and add some recognisable wheat, so I transfer list a handful of no-hopers and go looking for some recognisable names – set search to Age – 30+ and sort by caps.
Jesper Blomqvist and Erik Nevland catch my eye, but bids will have to wait until I trim my bloated squad.
The FA Cup is our best (only) chance of silverware this season and our 3rd round tie is against Division 2 Sheffield Wednesday, who have Spanish playmaker Julen Guerrero, amongst their ranks and are player-managed by Shaka Hislop.
I send out my strongest side and we put the opposite manager to the test right from the off and Debbah scores after 8 minutes. He gets his second on 37 minutes, 2 minutes after an own goal. Wednesday grab back a goal before half time. Another goal for Wednesday after half time makes me anxious but we hold out to take our place in the 4th round.
Our reward is an away trip to Division 1 Burnley. In the meantime, we’re back in action 2 days later in the league, at home to Watford and tiredness requires changes. Our weakened state shows and we’re two down by half time. The break does us no favours, my pleas for a comeback fall on death ears and I begin to rue not snapping up Figo. I love the fact Watford have a player called Barnes.
Things are no better away at Middlesbrough and after McAnenay and Giovanni from Brazil cancel out Debbah’s equalisers, Rubi-Gol gives away a penalty and all 3 pts. We’re sliding backwards.
I’m fed up (Lynn) – that was a negative and right now I need two positives, You know, one to cancel out the negative and another one just so I can have a positive. I decide I can’t wait for offers on my dud squad players so I release a few on free transfers.
Australian Craig Moore is shown the Doore. It costs me £350k, but he’ll lose his work permit at some point anyway as he never plays. Stig Johmasen and Willie Souness follow him out with their P45’s and I hit the shops.
I bid £140K for 31 year old Blomqvist but Nevland is not for sale at AIK, so I bid for Udinese’s Fabio Cannavaro – hey, he has 4 caps for Italy! Another to catch my eye is Scotsman Steven McManaman.
On Friday 13th January, I secure the signings of Jesper Blomqvist, Fabio Cannavaro and the Scottish McManaman. That’s 3 positives!
My new charges inspire the team, or at least make them fearful for their starting positions, as we demolish Spurs 4-1. My mood is only slightly diminished by realising Alfonso has signed for them and I’ve missed out. Oh Well, it’s a dominant display even if the new signings didn’t even feature.
That hauls us back up to 7th after 22 games, only 3 pts off Watford at the top, its still wide open. 3 days later Neil Warnock resigns as Spurs manager with them languishing in 17th.
Back to the FA Cup and once we’re 3 nil up and coasting, Blomqvist and Cannavaro get their debuts and even a Barry Smith second yellow doesn’t stop us in a 4 nil win to set up a 5th round tie against Sheff Utd – this cup run might just have legs!
Debbah gets a treble away to Man City in the league and everything is looking rosy again. I even manage to ship off some squad players to free up squad space. This allows me to make a £1m offer to Roma for Totti. They accept, he doesn’t – silly lad.
Norwich are our next victims in the league, sunk 2-0 and we’re up to 3rd, 3 pts still behind Watford at the top.
Our FA Cup quest takes a battering in the first 5 minutes against Sheff Utd, Zabek scoring from a corner and then getting himself injured. Ascensio levels before half time and sets up the last 45 nicely. I bring on Blomqvist and Kemble late in the second half to try and break the deadlock, but we fall to a sucker punch and that’s our FA Cup dreams over for the season. My best chance now for European glory is to try and secure a EUFA Cup place in the league.
I’m thankful there is no FA Cup hangover as we destroy Derby 4-0. It should have been more.
It is more of the same away to Villa, who have a decent side, but we are far too strong for them, and Lloyd Kaye gets a Perfect 10, what a signing he has been.
Wolves, are made of sterner stuff and when Barry Manilow song-soundalike Campobianco, equalises I feel our luck may be running out, but Nelo nudges us in front and we hang on for all 3 pts, which moves us nicely up to 2nd in the table, and only 1 pt behind Watford now.
The quarter finals of the Champions League are upon us and Gordon Milne’s Man City put themselves in the driving seat for the semi’s, whilst Jimmy Nicholl’s Middlesbrough give themselves a shot against Milan. That’s Erik Nevland’s AIK beating Sevilla by the way.
Farewell Irons, you weren’t getting a game, and when you did you were a bit crap. Together with a couple of other recent sales to lower league clubs frees up a bit of space in the squad and I consider bringing in another striker to back up Debbah and Rubi-gol for the final run in.
This guy looks alright and not much of a gamble…
With stats like that I reckon he’s the regen of Andrea Silenzi.
I’m also going to bid £6k for this Norwegian lad…
I also make bids for Paul Scholes and Raul as I have £32m in the bank. Regens save a lot of money it seems.
While I wait for the approaches to be considered, we head to St james’ Park to play 5th placed Newcastle. Their squad is packed with players running out of contract, and have James Beattie amongst their ranks.
Bogie has a sprained ankle, so Cannavaro gets his first start in defence, but apart from that, it’s the usual 11.
Mackenzie gets sent off for 2 yellow cards and I think the floodgates have opened when Rubini races through, only for his goal to be ruled out for off-side. Just as with the previous meeting, Angelo Pagotto plays a blinder in goal for the Magpies and it isn’t until Bak puts through his own net that we make the breakthrough and grab all 3 points.
Our win puts us ahead of Watford at the top, but they have a game in hand due to their FA Cup exploits. They try and unnerve me by bidding £1.9m for Hamish Chappell but I’m wise to it. Borgonovo makes the right choice and signs for us on a Free and I’ll put him on the bench for the visit of Leeds.
Leeds have Victor Ikpeba upfront and Taribo West in defense and are in the Semi’s of the FA Cup but their league form is patchy and they sit mid-table in 9th.
Nigel Quashie benefits form a Lizarralde fumble from a cross and that’s the only notable action from the first half. I decide to replace Rubi-gol with The Borg for the second half. Nelo does well to get us back into it, but it’s a chaotic last 5 minutes when Ikpeba hots the post and Ioan Timofte is on hand to stab in the rebound. Frustrations boil over and Cannavro gets himself sent off and it’s basically a crap day at the office.
Still the board are happy, and Kaye’s exploits haven’t been ignored, which was a nice surprise.
This wasn’t a surprise…
And nor was this really. Perhaps if I’d taken charge of Oldham instead….
The European competitions have all reached the semi-final stage…
English teams represented across all competitions there, hope we can join them next season.
So, with 9 league games to go, here’s how the table looks. Watford can leapfrog us with their game in hand and Man Utd can close the gap on us to 1 pt. It looks like being a 4-horse race for the title and we’ve put ourselves in a great position.
And for completeness, here’s the bottom section…
So, can we hold on or will Figo, Owen, Heskey and Mainwaring of Watford overtake us and add to last seasons Eufa Cup win? Or will Everton claim their first ever Premier League title and no-one can rule out Man Utd, but will Scholes regret his snub. Please join me next week to see how it all unfolds.
Before we go, just enough time to look at what we could have won…
Liverpool – hanging on in 6th place in Division 1 and a playoff spot. Shearer hasn’t added to his solitary strike from 2 games.
Lazio – Top of Serie B by a point after 27 games, they are looking good for a return to the top. They lost 2-1 on aggregate to Juventus in the European Super Cup and their defence of the Cup Winners Cup ended in the quarterfinals to Man Utd.
Espanyol – 4th in La Liga, but 22 points behind run-away leaders Deportivo. Playing for pride and a European slot for next season.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills