It’s the end of Matt’s second season in charge of Nottingham Forest. It might be 2007 but he is getting close to restoring those glory days. Catch up with part 7 here.
Hi and welcome back to the final update of season 2 where I’ve time travelled to the future and try and turn Forest into force once more. We were Premier League runners up last year which gave us a place in the Champions League which came and went, but we’re top of the league and into the later stages of both domestic cups, so things are looking up.
We’ll start with some international recognition.
This recall to the Spain squad is fully deserved and Guerrero celebrates by putting us ahead in the first half against 6th placed Sunderland. Carsten Jancker leads a fight back in the second half, setting up Halsall for the equaliser, but Zizi Debbah and a late double from Inge means this team is purring.
It’s international break time just before the transfer deadline shuts and Twan Inge makes his debut as a late substitute for Holland in their narrow 2-1 away win over Moldova. Barry Smith also makes his debut for Eire in similar circumstances although his is a losing debut away to Slovakia, but there’s sadness for Julen Guerrero who doesn’t even make the bench for Spain against Austria. Its was a friendly for pity’s sake, have a heart Claudio Ranieri!
Transfer deadline comes and I manage to sign Little Luis Enrique for real this time, for a bargain £1.5m and let a reserve goalie, Jeremy Stuart go to Bury.
Next up it’s the League Cup Final against Leeds United. Leeds have Ion Timofte and Chris Woodcock up front and Thomas Myhre in goal with Patrick Vieira and Nigel Quashie marshalling the midfield in a straight 4-4-2 formation. Manager Alan Little looking to add to last years FA Cup triumph.
New signing Juanmi is cup-tied, for reasons I can’t understand as he’s either played for Forest in the competition on loan or for Las Palmas. In Spain.
Barry ‘Roy Keane’ Smith is suspended, so Steven McManaman comes into the holding role, but apart from that it’s as we were.
Leeds rigid 4-4-2 formation stifles us and Woodcock draws first blood before Quashie goes off injured. Then towards the end of the half Woodcock sees red and it’s time to earn my corn in the half time team-talk.
Guerrero has a goal ruled out for offside on 50 minutes and we win endless corners but can find no way past Myhre in goal. I bring on Ascencio for Rubini and push Inge forward. My gamble pays off in the last minute of normal time as Debbah rises highest to a corner from Nelo to hammer a header past Myhre finally.
That late goal deflates 10 man Leeds and we score twice through Guerrero and Scottish wingback Hamish Chappell. Tonito gets sent off just before half time and we are almost there. We play out the last 15 minutes and Guerrero gets MOTM. Lloyd Kaye lifts the aloft the three handled cup and shouts ‘Baby, you make me wish I had three hands!’
The board are delighted, and we’ve won £500k, which is good. It’s not a route to Europe, as you know, but we have other avenues for that, starting with our FA Cup semi-final against Spurs. The other semi-final sees our title challenge rivals man Utd take on Alan Shearer’s Division 1 Liverpool.
We beat Spurs 7-2 last time out, but I am expecting more fight this time around from Kevin Keegan’s team who sold 3 of their best players to Arsenal on transfer deadline day. Best not question Keegan’s transfer dealings.
Juanmi is on for Chappell and Alfonso is on the bench against his old club.
Rubini decides the first half is a good time to score his 25th of the season, but Kovacevic levels before half time. Guerrero slots in Debbah and we are in control until Janney takes advantage of a defensive slip up and after a dire 30 minutes of extra time it’ll be a replay. In the other semi-final, Liverpool upset the odds to dump Utd out by 1 goal to nil.
3 days later and it’s back to Old Trafford to face Spurs again. I consider ringing the changes as most of my squad are knackered but persevere with the same line up from Sunday and with a little help from Nicky Weaver’s sending off, we run out 4-1 winners and it’ll be a final against Liverpool in May.
After all these cup exploits, it’s back to the bread and butter of the league and title rivals Man Utd serve up a humdinger of a 3-3 draw where Guerrero cancels out a Noel Whelan winner.
That point keeps us 2 pts behind Utd with a game in hand, which is against basement club Middlesbrough the following Wednesday.
Just when you think you’ve found some form…
A crazy middle of the game.
All of which sort of makes our next game away to mid-table Norwich pivotal if we are to sustain a title challenge.
My team like to put me through the wringer on the final run in, don’t they?
Man Utd draw nil-nil with 3rd place Leeds and we go top on goal difference with a game in hand. It’s ours to lose now with 5 games to go.
It’s another International Break and a chance for my players to rest up, even Guerrero who is overlooked by Ranieri’s Spain again, which maybe is a good thing.
When we take on Arsenal for our game in hand, its suspensions rather than injuries that force changes, with one of them, Fahlen, grabbing the winning goal to put us 3 pts clear at the top with 4 games to go.
Those 4 games will be played out in the spaces of 7 days due to the usual bank holiday fixture congestion in English CM world.
Up first are Huddersfield where a 0-0 draw and a Man Utd win do little to calm my fears of a collapse like last season. Then it’s on to Martin O’Neill’s Wolves for the Bank Holiday Monday showdown.
We’re running on empty but I’m loath to make wholesale changes, but Debbah and Fahlen carry us through as worthy winners. Combined with a Man Utd loss to 17th place Burnley, and we’re 4 pts clear with 2 games to go!
By a twist of fate, or selective algorithms and scheduling, our next match 2 days later is against Burnley at home.
Rubini and Bogie deliver the goods and its party time at The City Ground as we add the Premier League Crown to the League Cup won earlier this season.
Nottingham Forest are league champions for the first time since 1978.
It’s a complete change of line up for the final game to save players for the FA Cup final and Aston Villa show no mercy to demolish us 4-1, but it’s a carnival atmosphere as the Premier League Trophy is paraded around the ground.
Conformation of our achievements below, with man Utd sealing the second Champions League spot. Last years winners down to 5th, leapfrogged by our limp showing against Villa.
At the bottom, Ipswich trying to pretend they aren’t gong down with Middlesbrough and Hull.
Leeds finished 3rd and qualified for Europe, but lose another final this season…
We now have a chance to do what in reality would be a historic domestic treble but Man Utd achieved that feat in the very first season of this save.
It’ll be champions of the Premier Division vs Champions of Division 1 as Liverpool and Chelsea finish in first and second respectively.
We show Liverpool what they will be in store for next season, and in truth the game as a contest was effectively over in the first 15 minutes.
It’s a rout and we’ve done the treble, amazing scenes. Debbah with a double to add to Nelo and Rubini. In the end we were too much for Liverpool and I give some fringe players 5 minutes on the Wembley turf to start the celebrations. Liverpool will be disappointed, but they will be back in the Premier League and into Europe, where we’ll also focus our attention for the final season of this save.
Debbah and Rubini plundered 65 goals between them across 4 competitions. Alfonso got a big fat zero in his 9 outings and I’m glad I paid £750,000 for him and not the usual £15,750,000.
You’ll see Guerrero 3rd in the top scorers list and let’s dwell on this veteran Spaniard for a moment.
You’ll recall he joined us late on in the first Season, having been rescued from Sheffield Wednesday in Division 2.
He scored 4 goals in 8 games for us as we came close to sealing the title, but this season he has been amazing, even at the age of 33. He left Athletic Bilbao in the second season of this save for Valencia but rarely featured and a bargain move to Sheffield Wednesday saw consistent performances for 3 seasons in Division 1 until they were relegated to Division 2 in 04/05, where they still reside, having finished 18th under the stewardship of Jason Cundy – says it all really.
Ever dependable, match winner and game turner, I have come to love this Spanish playmaker and I hope he’ll keep his boots on into his 34th year as we push for European Glory and try to emulate Cloughie.
A nice symmetry with Alan Shearer getting Div 1 Manager of the Year and his regen getting PFA Young Player of the Year. Blog favourite Tomlinson doing well for Crewe in Division 3.
A quick chance before we go to round up the other teams that were an option at the very start of this blog:
Liverpool – Division 1 Champions and FA Cup Runners Up – we’ll be seeing a lot more of Alan Shearer’s side next season.
Lazio – Escaped relegation by 3 pts in Serie A where Milan were champions by a whopping 17 points. Milan also picked up the Coppa Italia to complete a dominant double.
Espanyol – Heartache in the league as a late season loss to Deportivo allowed Real Sociedad to claim the title by 1 point, but Espanyol had their revenge on Deportivo in the Champions League final, beating them 4-2.
See you next week for the start of our third and final season!
You can follow Matt on Twitter @Matt_C_Wills